by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
The Windsor Lancers basketball program went through a first half of the year unseen in quite some time.
While both the women’s and men’s teams have competitive rosters, they have fallen to the Western Mustangs early in the regular season and most recently fell to the Ottawa Gee Gees and Carleton Ravens to close out their pre-exam and holiday break schedule.
Don’t get it twisted; while both squads sit at 4-3, they are not records to stick your nose up at.
This is simply a sign of how truly competitive the OUA really is and it something women’s head coach Chantal Vallée has seen coming.
After the graduation of Korissa Williams, Jocelyn Larocque – who both won five CIS championships – as well as Kristine Lalonde, Vallée recruited heavily and saw the Lancers go through significant changes in the off-season. Seven first year players will do their best to mix with the Lancers veterans in an effort to build up another roster, which could capture another women’s basketball national title.
Vallée was recently interviewed at a Toronto Raptors game by Sportsnet’s Michael Grainge and said the league has gotten better each season.
“It’s really challenging … we have to compete against better and better basketball players and coaches do a great job across the country,” Vallée said. “We’re struggling but we’re going to do our best to challenge at the end and try to get our sixth championship, if possible.”
Wrapped around their three losses was a huge effort against the third-ranked Ryerson Rams, when Windsor came back from multiple double-digit deficits and pulled away for the 95-79 victory. Andrea Kiss went off for 29 points and 17 rebounds in that game and Vallée will need those kinds of efforts to get back to the CIS championship tournament before they try their luck at a sixth consecutive national title.
Forwards Cheyanne Roger and Emily Prevost will need to solidify the interior on offense and defense. Windsor’s guard play of Caitlynn Longmuir, Carly Steer and Kaylee Anagnostopoulos will be crucial to establish offensive balance the rest of the way.
Easier said than done, but these women have the skill, grit and determination along with a fine-tuned game preparation to get the job done. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Vallée squad to run the table over the next 13 games and find themselves in a good position to compete for a provincial and national championship.
Men’s interim head coach Ryan Steer knew exactly what he was getting into when he took over for Chris Oliver when the latter took sabbatical for the year and his primarily youth-induced team has fared well during the first section of the regular season. The men’s team bounced back from a loss on home court to Western Nov. 11 and bounced back to sweep the Ryerson Rams and Toronto Varsity Blues the next week.
Alex Campbell has been the scoring leader for the team but consistent secondary scoring has been an issue. Freshman Isiah Osborne has put up good numbers for a player his age but Windsor will need a bigger input on a more consistent basis to make a push when the playoffs begin in late February.
The secondary scoring load will not fall solely on Osborne however, as fellow rookies Micah Kirubel and Randy Oriakhi have stepped up for the Lancers when the first unit has needed rest. Oriakhi registered a double-double against the Rams while Kirubel has knocked down some big shots when the team has needed them.
“It’s nice to see our first years aren’t scared to fight back,” Steer said. “It’s going to be up and down all season when we are playing many first year players. They need to learn to close out games when we have teams on the ropes and put them away.”
Windsor will be challenged right out of the gate when next semester begins. A road trip up to St. Catharine’s for a date with the Brock Badgers will yield a tough matchup for both squads as the Badgers are much improved from a season ago.
The women Badgers are currently 5-1 and sit in first place of the OUA Central division while the men are in the exact same scenario with a 5-1 record. In the most recent CIS Top 10 poll, the women are ranked seventh while the men are tabbed as fourth-best in the nation – a place Steer’s squad would like to bump them off of.
Neither Windsor squads are included in the CIS Top 10 at this point of the year, which is a rare sight to see since they have been regulars during the past decade. Not to be taken as a slight, this is another opportunity for the Lancers basketball program to prove to themselves – and to the rest of the country – that no matter what year or what type of recruiting class comes in, no game is too big for them.
It’s time for our Windsor ‘ballers to show the OUA and CIS what they’re made of.