A coach-player relationship can make a major difference in a player’s performance, and even the overall performance of a team.
Ashley MacSporran knew exactly that when she was hired by Brock Sports this past summer to take over the head coaching duties for the women’s basketball program. The first thing on MacSporran’s to-do list was to sit down with her veteran forward Kira Cornelissen, and find out how the team could get the senior more involved offensively.
“I asked [Cornelissen] ‘what is it that you want?’,” said the rookie head coach. “She laid out a few things and I said ‘Okay we are going to go and get it’.”
For MacSporran’s philosophy of playing inside-out to work, the coach needed to be on the same page with her fourth year forward. The Badgers know what they can get from their guard play: strong handling of the ball and efficient three point shooting. However, there was a major need in getting Cornelissen involved as her ability to get to the rim would open the floor for the guards.
“My two assistant coaches (Chelsea Aubrey and Amy Audibert) are both post players and I brought them in for Cornelissen,” said MacSporran. “So we are changing the style of play for her because a lot of the style they had her playing [last season] was on the perimeter and floating around.”
This weekend Cornelissen showed what she can do on the floor when better utilized in an offensive system. The Badgers played a three game tournament over the course of three days, in which she scored a career-high 33 points on both Saturday and Sunday, respectively. She averaged 27 points over the weekend while shooting 49.2 per cent and 16.7 rebounds while playing an average of 37 minutes.
Although the Badgers went 1-2 on the weekend, losing to Laurentian on Friday and Western on Sunday – their lone win came against Nipissing on Saturday – the Badgers looked like a new team under MacSporran. There was high intensity for a full 40 minutes on both ends of the court for the Badgers. They were improved defensively and on offence they seemed under control while making the right passes.
“We spent two weeks on defence because we gave up 21 offensive rebounds against Waterloo,” said MacSporran. The Badgers last played prior to this weekend on October 14 versus UNBC. “We have to be a defensive team. It’s not okay to just outscore somebody.”
This team however, just like last season, is battling injuries. Over the course of this past weekend they played with a seven women roster and at times with only five or six. Bridget Atkinson, Adonaelle Mousambote, Jessica Morris and Ana Sofia Rua were unavailable, while Allie Columbus rolled her ankle on Saturday and was constantly riding the stationary bike during Sunday’s game to stay warm. Veteran guard Melissa Tatti was also unavailable for a portion of the game versus Western due to illness, leaving the Badgers with five players.
MacSporran is hopeful to get three of the injured players back for the November 12 home opener against the University of Toronto, but the team could not be happier to see preseason end, allowing them to rest up for the next two weeks.
“I think what’s nice for them, they’ve sat on the bench and learned,” said MacSporran about the injured players. “You learn a lot when you’re injured. You have a different advantage while sitting there and watching.”
The one positive of being short a few players was the opportunity to allow someone like Shannon Northey, a first year centre, to be able to get some experience among strong OUA competition. However, it won’t be ideal for the Badgers if Cornelissen is playing 40 minutes every game so they need everyone back and ready for Nov. 12.
Other key players for the Badgers this past weekend were Melissa Tatti, who averaged 14 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals, while shooting 45.4 per cent from three. Guards Baelie Campbell and Alexandra Symonds also looked good, but the Badgers need to find ways to get second year guard Chrissy Sirignano scoring opportunities. Sirignano shot 26.7 per cent from the field for the weekend.
“The end of preseason is always interesting,” said MacSporran. “The whole tournament was about getting us, our bench and players minutes and experience on the court. There’s girls [on our team] that throughout the preseason, just getting them playing time, I [was able to] see things and grow from them.”
The Badgers will open the season with three of four games at home. Then they’ll close out the 2016 portion of the season with a trip to Ottawa for two games, and the 2017 schedule will start with four games up north.
“This is when everything matters and we can really start to buckle down,” said MacSporran.