CALGARY, Alberta — They’ve been knocking on the door, but the door hasn’t quite opened.
The SAIT Trojans have been on the brink of success in the ACAC over the past two seasons, but they haven’t been able to turn their regular season success into post-season results. After two straight bronze medals in the ACAC Championships, the Trojans are hoping that the 2018-19 season is the year in which they break down the door and advance to the CCAA National Championships.
Back in 2016-17, the Trojans finished third in the ACAC South Division, but picked up a win in the quarter-finals of the ACAC Championships to put themselves on the right side of the bracket. They would take home a bronze medal after falling short in their quest for a league title.
Last season, all eyes were on SAIT as they were the host institution for the 2018 ACAC Women’s Basketball Championships. The Trojans went 17-4 over the regular season, finishing first in the South Division. Once again, a win in the quarter-finals put the Trojans on the Championship side of the bracket. However, history would repeat itself in the semi-finals, as a loss sent SAIT to the bronze medal game.
Bronze medals in each of the last two seasons have the Trojans wanting more. They’ve been knocking on the door of success in the post-season, but haven’t been able to play their way into the title game and compete for a spot in the eight-team field at the CCAA National Championships.
Head coach Ranbir Parmar and his staff have a talented roster back in 2018-19, and they will look to help the Trojans get over the hump and earn a spot in the ACAC title game.
Two seasons ago, the Trojans finished third in the ACAC South Division with a record of 14-7. An opening round win over the CUE Thunder sent the Trojans into the semi-finals where they were matched up against the host Lethbridge College Kodiaks. The Kodiaks went undefeated in the regular season, finishing at 21-0. The Trojans fell to Lethbridge College, 66-50, but managed to bounce back with a win over the Medicine Hat Rattlers in the bronze medal game.
Last year, the Trojans had their sights set on bigger and better things as the hosts of the ACAC Women’s Basketball Championships, but history decided to repeat itself for SAIT.
The Trojans finished the year with a record of 17-4, and a win over the Olds College Broncos in the regular season finale gave SAIT the outright South Division title with 34 points. SAIT earned the top seed from the South Division in the playoffs, and they had a great chance at making it to the title game and competing for a spot at nationals.
A narrow three-point win over the NAIT Ooks in the quarter-finals pushed the Trojans onto the championship side of the bracket. There, they were paired up with Medicine Hat, who was the third seed from the South Division. The Rattlers had an upset on their mind, and in front of the Trojans’ home fans, they delivered the crushing blow to the Trojans and their title hopes.
Medicine Hat held the Trojans to just 42 points, picking up an eight-point victory to continue their own magical journey to the ACAC Championship game.
Once again, SAIT found themselves in the bronze medal game to close the event. The Trojans knocked off the Lakeland College Rustlers, 53-48, to earn themselves a bronze medal and a spot on the podium for the second year in a row.
In 2018-19, the Trojans want more when it comes to the post-season. After being so close in each of the last two seasons, SAIT has their sights set on the ultimate prize this time around.
Leading scorer Alicia Tan graduated from the Trojans following last season. Tan led the Trojans in scoring with an average of 16.4 points per game. She shot 38.1% from the floor and 36.9% from three-point range over the course of the season. Tan was also the only player to average double-digit points per game for the Trojans last season. Her departure leaves a hole on the offensive end in terms of production, but SAIT has its share of veterans back who are ready to lead the way.
Alexa Tan, Alicia’s sister, will look to take on an expanded role with the Trojans in 2018-19. Last season, the 5’5” guard from Calgary finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.4 points to go along with 2.1 assists per game. Tan had an assist-to-turnover ratio last season of 2:1, highlighting her ability to protect the ball on the offensive end of the floor. With Alicia having graduated, look for Alexa to handle the ball more coming up the court.
Joining Tan in the back court is a player that every coach would love to have on their team. Fifth year guard Mel Woolley leaves it on the court each and every night, and her stat line won’t always reflect what she brings to the team. The 5’3” guard from Sturgeon County, Alberta posted 7.0 points and 3.5 assists per game last season, but it’s what doesn’t show up in the box score that makes her a special athlete. Whether it’s taking a charge from a player much bigger than her or diving on the court for loose balls, Woolley will do whatever it takes to help her team win on a nightly basis.
The things that you can’t teach a player, like worth ethic and determination, are what makes Woolley an irreplaceable student-athlete for the Trojans.
Up front, the return of Melanie Thera gives the Trojans a threat in the paint on both ends of the court. Last season, her first after transferring to SAIT from Olds College, Thera posted 8.9 points and a team-high 11.4 rebounds per contest. She finished fourth in the ACAC in rebounding over the course of the regular season. Thera pulled down double-digit rebounds in 12 of her 20 regular season appearances.
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Trojans will welcome some key veterans that will add depth to the roster. Martina Allen and Hope Lewis are back and will provide leadership along with production on both ends of the floor, while second-year guard Jaiden Hansen will look to take a big step forwards as she steps into a larger role with the Trojans this season.
After falling just short of the league title in each of the past two seasons, the Trojans have their sights set on the ACAC Championship in 2018-19. A balanced roster that is mixed with youth and veterans alike will give the Trojans depth on both sides of the ball. They have a talented group of returnees who are capable of leading the team on their quest for that elusive league title.
The Trojans have been knocking on the door of post-season success for two years. It’s only a matter of time before the door opens.
– T. Bennett