MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — It may have only been one spot, but the Medicine Hat Rattlers improved in the ACAC South Division last season.
As the 2018-19 season fast approaches, they are hoping to continue their forward progress.
In 2016-17, the Rattlers finished in fourth place in the division, securing the last playoff spot with a record of 11-10 in ACAC play. Medicine Hat won their final three games of the season to maintain their one-game lead over the Red Deer College Queens to secure their spot in the playoffs.
Last season, Medicine Hat improved on their fourth-place finish from the year prior, finishing third this time around. At 14-7, they were just two points behind the second-place Olds College Broncos, while three games separated second from fifth in the standings. Two straight wins to close the regular season gave the Rattlers a boost of momentum heading into the playoffs, and they kept that going through the ACAC Championships.
Wins over the CUE Thunder and host SAIT Trojans saw the Rattlers advance to the title game. While they fell to the St. Mary’s University Lightning, Medicine Hat secured a spot in the CCAA National Championships. While they would finish eighth at nationals, Medicine Hat put the ACAC and the rest of the CCAA on notice that they are a program on the rise.
In 2018-19, the Rattlers will be looking to continue their success on the hardwood and build off last season’s appearance at the national championships. Two of their top three scorers are gone, but Medicine Hat still has the talent in place to contend in the conference.
At the CCAA National Championships last season, the Rattlers opened up the tournament with a loss to the host Mount Allison Mounties, 61-49. A loss to the Capilano University Blues followed, setting up a finale rematch between Medicine Hat and St. Mary’s University.
The Lightning would end the event with a 77-55 win, sending Medicine Hat home without a win to their name from the tournament.
Despite the losses, the nation took notice of the program at Medicine Hat and the Rattlers are back in 2018-19 to continue their climb in the ACAC standings and advance back to the CCAA National Championships. If their early-season results are any indication, Medicine Hat will be one of the teams to beat in the South Division.
An exhibition loss to the Lethbridge Pronghorns opened up the Rattlers’ exhibition slate on September 21st. Then, a week later, Medicine Hat were in Calgary for an exhibition tournament at SAIT. The Rattlers picked up three wins in three days, helping to build positive momentum as the season fast approaches.
Medicine Hat picked up wins over the Douglas College Royals, NAIT Ooks, and Lakeland College Rustlers.
Against the Ooks, the Rattlers picked up a 77-55 win thanks in large part to a balanced offensive attack. All 13 players on the roster saw at least six minutes of floor time, and 12 of the 13 players recorded at least two points. Alexa Wandler was the only player to not record a point, but she did pull down three rebounds in the win.
Leading the way for the Rattlers this season will be Kendell Kuntz, who is their lone fifth-year player. Last season, Kuntz was second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game over 17 appearances, all of which were starts. She added 1.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Before missing the final four games of the regular season in 2017-18, Kuntz had 12 games with double-digit points to her name. She began the season with four straight double-digit performances, and later posted back-to-back 20+ point performances against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks.
With the loss of Kennedy Werre (15.9 ppg, 13.5 rpg), Kuntz will step into a starring role this season with the Rattlers.
Fourth year guard Morgan Muir will also see an expanded role this season, especially with the loss of Courtney Henry from last year’s team. In the Rattlers’ exhibition win over NAIT, Muir posted seven points, three rebounds, and two assists in 17 minutes of floor time. Last season, she averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 assists per contest.
Muir was also one of three players on the Medicine Hat roster to shoot better than 80% from the free-throw line. Muir (82.5%), Henry (82.4%), and Werre (82.3%) all took advantage of their opportunities from the free-throw line.
While they have lost some talented pieces from last year’s team, in Werre and Henry, the Rattlers have their share of talent back this season. In their exhibition games over the month of September, the depth for the Rattlers was on full display, and that will undoubtedly help the team as they look to continue their climb in the ACAC South Division standings.
Two seasons ago, they finished fourth in the eight-team division. Last year, they finished third before making their run to the CCAA National Championships. In 2018-19, Medicine Hat will look to continue their climb in their own league while making another run to nationals and contend for a CCAA Championship.
– T. Bennett