Toronto, ON- Canadian university sport often showcases some of the top athletes in Canada, and this is especially true in women’s sports. There are U SPORTS alumni on Canada’s national hockey and soccer teams, among others. In this four part series, 49 Sports takes a look at some of the most dominant programs in U SPORTS history.
Last season showcased even more women who could soon make their mark on the international stage. Just in 2019-20, we saw:
– The Brock Badgers win their first Critelli Cup and first OUA title since 1984
– The Varsity Blues run the table in hockey and take the McCaw Cup for the first time since 2003
– Trinity Western win their fourth Women’s Volleyball Canada West title in six years
– Cape Breton take their fourth straight AUS soccer title
For Part One of this series we head to the hardwood, to look at a team that dominated U SPORTS Women’s Basketball for the first half of the 2010s.
The Windsor Lancers Women’s Basketball Program (2008 – 2015)
OUA Titles: six (2009-2011, 2013-2015)
National Championships: five (2011-2015)
The Bronze Baby is easily my favourite trophy of the U SPORTS National Championships and for the first half of the 2010s it moved into the St. Denis Fieldhouse at the University of Windsor and seemingly just decided to stay there. The run that the Windsor Lancers had began slow, but picked up steam and despite some challenges along the way, was a truly absurd level of dominance.
The Lancers run started earlier than their first title. 2007-2008 was the first season that the Lancer program, which had finished below .500 for the previous 14 seasons, made some noise. Led by then third-year coach Chantal Vallee, the Lancers finished 14-8 and beat Laurier before upsetting Western to make the Critelli Cup final. They fell to the McMaster Marauders 64-53, but it was the first introduction to the soon-to-be dominance of the Lancers.
That heartbreak against McMaster helped the Lancers to breakout. Led by Dranadia Roc and Alisa Wulff, OUA West All-Stars, and Bojana Kovacevic Glisic, an OUA West All-Rookie, the Lancers ran the table of the OUA going 21-1. They cruised back to the OUA championship game, where they beat the uOttawa Gee-Gees 68-51 for the first title in school history.
That earned them a trip to nationals in Saskatchewan, where they ended up falling 64-62 in a hard-fought bronze medal match vs Alberta to finish fourth in the country.
2009-2010 saw Windsor basketball get introduced to a new superstar. First-year forward Jessica Clemencon picked up several accolades during her time in blue and gold, including:
– An OUA West All-Star
– OUA West Rookie of the Year
– An OUA West All-Rookie Team member
– CIS All-Rookie Team Member
– CIS Rookie of the Year
– CIS Championship All-Star Team member
She pushed the Lancers to another 21-1 record and, in the playoffs, brought them back to the Critelli Cup, where they once again faced the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and once again, they defeated them. This time in an 83-55 blowout off of a game high 19 point performance from Jessica Clemencon.
At the CIS Championship, after beating Ottawa again in the Quarter-Final, the Lancers bested the Saskatchewan Huskies in the semi-final before falling to Simon Fraser in the 2010 CIS Gold Medal game. It was a frustrating ending for the Lancers, but it was just the beginning.
2010-2011 became the first golden season for the Lancers, and it was clear from the start as to why. Jessica Clemencon dominated once again, earning OUA West All-Star and CIS First-Team All-Canadian honours, along with OUA West Player of the Year. She also had help from Miah-Marie Langlois, an OUA West Second Team All-Star and Korissa Williams, who earned a place on the All-Rookie Team. The Lancers went 20-2, including winning their final 13 straight games. Windsor hosted the 2011 Final 8 Championship, but they ensured their place no matter what by blowing out Lakehead before topping Laurier. This set up a match with Carleton in their third straight OUA final.
The Lancers struggled in the first half, shooting only 27%. In the second half though, the best defence in the CIS in 2010-2011 (allowing just 52.4 points per game) stood tall. While holding the Ravens to six fourth quarter points, it was Jessica Clemencon who ended up sealing it for the Lancers with a pair of free throws in the dying seconds to push Windsor to a 46-44 win and a third straight OUA title.
At the 2011 National Championship at the St. Denis Fieldhouse, the Lancers took on three titans and knocked them all out. First, they beat the RSEQ champions Laval in the Quarterfinal. They toppled AUS winners Cape Breton in the Semi-final before beating Canada West champs Saskatchewan 63-49 to win the 2011 CIS National Championship. That win made Windsor the first team to host a Women’s Basketball National Championship and succeed on their home court and the first team to win the Bronze Baby from outside Canada West since Laurentian won in 1991.
With that first victory in place, the Lancers seemingly decided they did not feel like giving the trophy back to Canada West (or any other team for that matter) for a while.
It started the following season in 2011-2012. The Lancers once again saw an OUA West Player of the Year season from Jessica Clemencon, along with a breakout performance from Miah-Marie Langlois, who joined Clemenson on the OUA West All-Star Team and was named OUA West Defensive Player of the year. After a pair of early-season losses, the Lancers finished 20-2 again, including winning their final 16 straight games.
In 2012 though, the Lancer dynasty hit its first snag. After cruising through the first two rounds, the Lancers faced their old nemesis, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, in the Critelli Cup final. The Gee-Gees proceeded to blowout the Lancers 89-40 as nobody on Windsor could hit a shot, finishing with a field goal percentage of 23%. The Lancers licked their wounds, though and came back to beat the Gees-Gees in the 2012 CIS East Regional Final. Heading into the National Championship the Lancers ranked fourth, but they did not let that stop them as they AUS champs Acadia in the quarterfinal before toppling the host Calgary Dinos in the semifinal. Back trying to defend their gold medal it was 17 points from Langlois that helped Windsor to a 69-53 win over UBC, earning the right to keep the Bronze Baby at St Denis Fieldhouse for a second season.
After the game Langlois said their fourth place ranking served as motivation for the team:
“At the beginning of the tournament they ranked us at number four, but it just shows that no matter what you’re ranked you can still end up at the top.”
The 2012-2013 season could also be called perfection. The Lancers went 21-0 in the regular season off a repeat Defensive Player of the Year performance from Langlois and All-Star team appearances from Langlois, Clemencon and Williams. The Lancers walked through the regular season with a five-point victory over Carleton on opening night in Windsor, serving as the closest game for them on the year.
In the 2013 playoffs, it was more of the same. Blowouts over Western and McMaster brought the Lancers back to the Provincial Championship for the sixth consecutive season. An 18 point night from Clemencon helped the Lancers to a 56-51 win over Carleton and a fourth OUA Gold Medal in six seasons.
Once they got to nationals in Regina, it was more of the same. They beat their rivals the Gee-Gees in the Quarters, before blowing out Calgary and then defeating the host Cougars to take a third straight Bronze Baby title. That Gold Medal match vs Regina saw a Clemencon 11 Point/11 Rebound double-double and a game high 18 points from Langlois who also drained a pair of threes for the Lancers in their 66-57 win.
During the 2013-2014 season, perhaps the only downside for Windsor came on opening night when they fell 62-58 to Carleton. Other than that, though, the Lancers just kept rolling, rattling off 21 straight wins from that point on to cruise into the playoffs. In her final ride with the Lancers, Jessica Clemencon earned another OUA West All-Star slot, but a team effort overall pulled the Lancers through. Langlois (also in her final season) won a third straight OUA West and CIS Defensive Player of the Year, Williams earned another second-team All-Star slot. First year Cheyanne Roger brought new blood, earning herself a spot on the OUA West and CIS All-Rookie teams.
The Lancers had their most leisurely run yet in the 2014 OUA Playoffs; they beat Mac by 19, Laurier by 18. In the finals they toppled Queen’s by 25 as Clemencon and Langlois combined for 46 points, almost outscoring the Gaels 48 by themselves but with with teammates help got the Lances to 73 points in their 73-48 win.
With a fifth OUA win since 2008 in their pocket, the Lancers hosted the Final 8 for the second time in 2014 and dominated, winning all three games by at least 16 points to take home their fourth consecutive Bronze Baby. Each game of the tournament was a different player step up. In the 81-53 quarterfinal win over Laurier it was a 30 point outing from Langlois. The next night in a 65-45 semi-final win over Fraser Valley it was an eighteen point, nine rebound showing from Clemencon. In the 71-45 Gold medal victory over St Mary’s, Jocelyn LaRocque stepped up, hitting four threes for Windsor as the cruised to a fourth straight Bronze Baby. Following the game, LaRocque had a telling quote demonstrating how Windsor managed to keep finding success despite turnover in their lineup.
“Every season it’s a new team and none of our teams can really take credit for what the team did in previous years,” she said. “There’s always motivation for us to go out and perform as well as we possibly can.
The 2014-2015 season was the last of the Lancers dynasty, and it was a familiar face who helped make it happen. Korissa Williams, long the third wheel to Clemencon and Langlois, stepped up in 2014-2015; she finished as OUA and CIS Defensive Player of the Year, an OUA First-Team All-Star and a CIS First-Team All Canadian. Cheyanne Rogers joined her on that OUA First Team, while another rookie in Carly Steer stepped up and took the traditional Lancer spot on the OUA All-Rookie Team. The Lancers once again finished with only a single loss, going 19-1 to cruise into the OUA playoffs yet again.
In the 2015 OUA Playoffs, it was more of the traditional domination from Windsor. They blew out Toronto 64-49 and Lakehead 57-31 before meeting the Ryerson Rams in the Critelli Cup at St Denis Centre Fieldhouse. In what was their eighth straight appearance in the OUA title fight, Korissa Williams played 38 minutes and put-up a near triple-double of 18/10/9 for the Lancers, who beat the Rams handily 71-51.
In the 2015 CIS National Championship, the Lancers knocked off Laval, Saskatchewan and McGill without any trouble, including seeing Williams put up 21 points in the gold medal game to take home the bronze baby for a fifth consecutive season. Fittingly she got to celebrate with a nice piece of hardware
For Coach Vallee, it was winning the fifth title at home that made it extra special:
“Every championship is special, but this one even more,” said Windsor head coach Chantal Vallee. “We only had nine players for most of the season, and for me, to win in the city of Quebec, where I’m from, it’s pretty special.
Although the Lancers finally faltered in 2015-2016, losing to Ryerson in the OUA Semi-final to not make the Critelli Cup for the first time since 2008, their run of dominance was genuinely incredible.
So much of the Lancers excellence came from the culture instilled by Head Coach Chantal Vallee. Vallee, who completed her 14th season on the Lancers sideline in 2019-2020, picked up plenty of hardware herself during Windsor’s run. She was named OUA West Coach of the Year in 2009, 2011, 2012,2014 and 2015, along with being named the CIS Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2015.
Even after their dynasty ended in 2015, the Lancers have still been a strong OUA basketball program with winning records in every year since and a pair of bronze medals in 2016 and 2017. When history reflects on it though, not since the Laurentian Lady Vees run of five straight titles in 1975 through 1979 did we see such a level of dominance in U SPORTS Women’s Basketball that we did from the Windsor Lancers in the first half of the 2010s.