The 2018/2019 women’s basketball season kicked off this past weekend, marking the official start of a new era for the women’s program. It’s Mike Rao’s first season as the Badgers’ head coach, after serving as an assistant for the men’s team the past two years and with the women for a half a season last year. Rao is taking over for Ashley MacSporran, who parted ways with Brock after a disappointing 6-18 record last season.
Rao is joined by Cedric Kasongo, who is entering his first season with the program as Rao’s lead assistant coach. Kasongo played under Rao at Notre Dame High School, and later played at Brock during the 2010/11 season. Kasongo now plays professionally in Italy, but is coaching while he recovers from a knee injury that has him out for the season.
Coming into the season, the biggest addition for the Badgers was the return of Melissa Tatti. Tatti played for Brock from 2014 to /17, and was named to the OUA All-Rookie Team in 2015, and an OUA Second Team All-Star in 2016. She transferred to Ryerson last year, but returned to play for what will be her fourth season as a Badger. “It’s good to be back, I definitely missed it here,” said Tatti.
The Badgers opened up their season against the Laurier Golden Hawks, losing by a final of 63-51. Shooting woes plagued the Badgers, as they shot just 32.8 per cent from the field, including 46.7 per cent from the line and an ice cold 11.8 per cent from deep. Brock only trailed by three at halftime, but a poor third quarter broke the game open in favour of Laurier.
“We stopped trusting each other,” said Rao on the Badgers offensive struggles. “We stopped moving the ball, we stopped moving ourselves, we had no player movement, no ball movement and we just kept depending on one player to take us through, and that’s not basketball.”
Rao was also displeased with his team’s defensive performance, which saw Laurier record 11 offensive rebounds compared to Brock’s 19 defensive rebounds.
“I wasn’t happy with our defence. I mean, we gave some effort, but I wasn’t happy with our overall play. We need to trust each other, and we need to play better together. If we don’t, we’re gonna have this kind of result every game,” said Rao.
Luckily the Badgers didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as the following night saw the Guelph Gryphons come to town. Brock played much better than the previous night, but ultimately fell short by a score of 70-63.
The Badgers came out of the gates slowly, trailing by 11 after the first quarter, and only scoring 14 points in the first 14 minutes of play. The lineup of Tatti, Meagen Charbonneau, Miranda Smith, Baelie Campbell and Allie Columbus — who missed all of last season recovering from a torn ACL — brought the Badgers back in the game, and they only trailed by four at halftime.
It was a one point game heading into the fourth quarter, and Brock was led by none other than Tatti. After a poor shooting night Friday that saw her shoot four of 17, including five misses from three, Tatti bounced back by recording 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and an absurd 9 steals on eight of 15 shooting, including five of eight from three, while playing all 40 minutes of action.
Three of Tatti’s three pointers came in the fourth, including two big ones with two minutes left in the game. Brock trailed 64-63 with 56 seconds left, but was unable to complete the comeback, as Guelph pulled away with some late free throws to seal the win.
“I had to get my legs under myself, fix a little bit of my shot,” said Tatti. “Whenever I miss I know what [the mistake] is, so when I get back to that it’s good, it’s money.”
Tatti finished the weekend averaging eight steals per game, and said it’s something she tries to go for every game. “It’s just helping out my teammates as much as I can, and trying to have little tips on the ball here and there.”
The Badgers will look for their first win of the season on Nov. 2, where they will take on the 2-0 McMaster Marauders at the Bob Davis Gymnasium.