Oftentimes, after a season is done and over, locker rooms are cleaned out, the stands are empty and the players have all gone into their off-season routines. The way to evaluate the off-season for many is to check the standings. However (and this could not be truer for the Brock Badgers women’s basketball team) the number of wins and losses do not define a season.
Sure, it can seem that finishing seventh in the west division was a let-down. The team surely wanted to be less than four wins back of a playoff spot in a 24-game season. They only finished above two-win Algoma and Waterloo, two teams they lost to this season.
While many might say they underperformed, they’re trying to build something that can grow together: a program that will reach its peak when this core of rookies reaches their senior years. One of those rookies to look out for is undoubtedly Kristin Gallant.
Starting the season on the bench, the Halifax, Nova Scotia product forced her way into the starting lineup with some brilliant scoring performances.
“[Gallant] was our workhorse and our leading scorer,” said head coach Ashley MacSporran. “We asked her to go in practices and in games. Most teams couldn’t stop her in open court and she should have been OUA rookie of the year.” Instead, the All-OUA Rookie lost out to Marin Scotten of the Ryerson Rams. Gallant led Scotten in points per game, assists per game, and rebounds per game. “This year was definitely more than I expected,” said Gallant. “There was a time when I accepted that I wasn’t going to even play basketball past high school, so coming and being apart of Brock’s program and getting the amount of playing time I got was amazing. I definitely do think that this was a breakout year. I had no expectations going into the season, but once I started seeing the court a lot more my confidence went up and really made a difference.”
However, just as the team was hitting stride, especially after starting the season out winning four of the first five home games, the injury bug hit. Point guard Ana Caldeira Rua went down with a calf injury, Stephanie Findlay hurt her shoulder, and Kristin Gallant was concussed, among the starting lineup.
“The concussion was very unlucky,” said Gallant. “It was an accident in practice while rebounding. It was really upsetting because I didn’t know it was going to make me have to miss so many games. Head issues are serious so once symptoms mostly went away, having to still sit out of practices was tough. Nothing was harder than not being able to fly with my team to Algoma and having to sit out of games and watch knowing that I wasn’t allowed to go on the court. Nonetheless, I’m fortunate that it was not more than five games that I was out because I still got to play a couple more before the season ended.”
Injuries are an aspect of the game that are almost impossible to predict and control. With the team down to just a six-player rotation for much of January, they collapsed, losing winnable games and slipping out of playoff contention.
“Last year, we had the same problem with injuries,” says Caldeira Rua. “I feel like it’s just bad luck, I don’t know but it’s really tough. And then it’s just the snowball effect. It’s hard to get motivated when things are going bad and you are losing players.”
However, the team had some strong performances near the end of the season that provides a lot of hope for next year. One of the highlights of the season was almost pulling one of the biggest upsets of the year when they were within six points with six minutes to go against perennial contenders in Windsor. They were unable to complete the comeback down the stretch but with only six players in what should have been a blowout, the team’s young core showed some flashes of brilliance.
Besides graduating guard Brooke Murdoch, MacSporran and her coaching staff expect the entire team to return, which bodes well for a team that prides themselves on their chemistry. As the team progress into the off-season, the attention turns towards ensuring the Badgers are ready next year with high hopes.
“We have pretty much everyone back and are looking forward to adding some big pieces,” says MacSporran. “There is lots of growth to be seen with to this team. Skill development. Fundamentals. Fitness and strength.”
If the 2018-2019 version of this team can stay on the court and continue to develop together, the Bob Davis Gym might just start filling up for both men’s and women’s games.