SUDBURY, Ontario — Experience wins games in college basketball, and the Laurentian Voyageurs women’s basketball team is hoping that is the case in 2018-19.
The Voyageurs are coming off a 2017-18 season in which they won just five games against OUA opponents, two of which came over a four-day stretch against the Nipissing Lakers. Laurentian had four losing streaks of at least four games over the course of the season, and they limped to the finish on the heels of a four-game slide in February.
Last season, Laurentian had only one fifth-year player on their roster, while nine of their players were either first or second year athletes. With the bulk of their roster back for another season, things are looking up for the Voyageurs.
Experience is one thing that you can’t teach. You can work on your jump shot for hours in the gym. You can work on your footwork and your passing with countless drills. You can’t force yourself to age any faster, and experience is learned over time.
Looking at this year’s projected roster for Laurentian, they will have their share of experience that should help them climb from the bottom half of the OUA standings.
After dropping all three of their exhibition games prior to the 2017-18 OUA season, the Voyageurs opened up league play with a 49-46 win over the Waterloo Warriors. A five-game losing streak followed before Laurentian found their way back into the win column.
As a team, the Voyageurs put up an average of 59.3 points per contest on 34.8% shooting from the floor. Laurentian shot just 27.5% from three-point range, and 66.8% from the free throw line. The Voyageurs left their fair share of points on the floor, which could have improved their record in some of those close games throughout the season.
Laurentian had nine games decided by nine or fewer points last season, and they were a combined 3-6 in those games. Extra made free throws could have improved their record by a win or two, if not more.
But, one cannot change the past, and you can’t dwell on something that you can’t change.
Looking at the projected roster for the Voyageurs in 2018-19, head coach Jason Hurley will only be missing one player from last year’s roster. That number could very well increase, as Laurentian has yet to release their full 2018-19 roster.
Forward L’Ashante Henry appeared in 16 games last season, making 11 starts. The Brampton, ON product finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game on 41.4% shooting from the floor. The 5’10” forward added a team-high 6.2 rebounds to go along with 2.1 steals per game.
Henry scored in double figures nine times over her 16 appearances last season, including three of her final five contests.
Back for the Voyageurs this season will be their lone all-star selection from last season, guard Emily Tinnes. The 5’3” guard from Newmarket, Ontario represented Laurentian at the OUA All-Star game after leading the team in scoring with an average of 12.4 points per game. She played in all 23 league games, starting in 22 of them.
Tinnes also led the Voyageurs with 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
In Tinnes, the Voyageurs have a reliable point guard who brings a strong offensive game to the court as well as a wealth of experience. In 2018-19, she will be one of two fifth-year players on the roster (Adriane Bruni). As a regular in the starting five, look for Tinnes to put together another season that’s worthy of an all-star selection.
Guards Emily Fisher and Mackenzie Robinson both look ready to take on expanded roles with the team this season as fourth-year student-athletes. Last season, Robinson averaged 7.8 points per contest, good for the fourth-best mark on the team. However, she shot 28.9% from the floor and 18.9% from three-point range. If Robinson can find her groove from the floor early in the season and build up confidence from long-range, a double-digit per game average is on the horizon.
In a reserve role, Fisher was far more effective from the field and from the free throw line. In 14.6 minutes per contest, Fisher averaged 3.3 points per game on 41.0% shooting from the floor and 95.0% shooting from the free throw line. In 2018-19, Fisher should take on an expanded role with the team that leads to more minutes and increased production. In limited action, she showed that she can be effective from the floor.
The Voyageurs are coming off a 5-18 season in OUA play in 2017-18, and are looking to turn that around this year. They lose a key forward to graduation, but they return the bulk of their production, and all of their returnees have another year of experience under their belts. Tinnes is the focal point of the offense, but there are other pieces that could be in for a big jump in terms of production if they are able to seize their opportunities early on in 2018-19.
Laurentian gets the season underway at the end of September, as they will host three exhibition games in as many days before taking part in two road exhibition events in October. League play gets under way on October 26th when they take on Nipissing inside the Ben F. Avery Gymnasium.
– T. Bennett