2022 U Sports Women’s Basketball Exhibition Tournament Guide: Preseason Basketball is Back

Hamilton, ON- With fall upon us, it’s a reminder that exhibition tournaments and games are tipping off for U Sports women’s basketball teams. There are usually games between nonconference opponents, NCAA opponents (although none this year so far) and CCAA opponents. 

One of the most exciting parts of the preseason are exhibition tournaments, where teams often play two or three games in a short time period against teams from across the country. It provides fans a chance to watch teams from different conferences and there are stakes on the line as well. Tournament winners are often named as well as tournament MVP and All-Star awards. It also provides a chance to see first-year players and transfers debut with their new teams. 

While preseason information mostly released, here are the tournaments so far that have been announced. Information of the tournaments and all the exhibition games so far can be found on Martin Timmerman’s U Sports Hoops site

The Mickey Place tournament was supposed to be hosted by UPEI but was recently cancelled due to the effects of Hurricane Fiona. It would have featured the Saskatchewan Huskies, Acadia Axewomen, UPEI Panthers and Ottawa Gee-Gees – all teams that have had success at nationals recently. Instead, Acadia will host UPEI and Ottawa for exhibition games. 

Here’s the rundown on this year’s exhibition tournament slate. 

Kiyara Letlow and her Capers host nationals this year (Photo: CBU/CBU Athletics)

Helen Campbell Memorial Tournament (Sept. 30-Oct. 2): Fredericton, NB

Teams: Cape Breton, Manitoba, UNB, McGill

The Reds added several key players this offseason, including former Acadia star Jayda Veinot. The Reds will have the chance to face off against a strong Cape Breton team led by forward Kiyara Letlow. The Capers almost won the AUS title last year and host nationals this year. Meanwhile, McGill will try and rebound after a winless season last year while Manitoba is coming off a 4-12 season in the Canada West. 

McKeen Metro Glebe Tournament (Sept 30- Oct. 2): Ottawa, ON

Teams: Carleton, UBC Okanagan, Concordia, UQAM

The Carleton Ravens have hosted some notable preseason games in the past. After the tournament didn’t take place in 2021, it returns as Carleton hosts RSEQ regular season champion Concordia and RSEQ finalists UQAM. Both Quebec schools should be in contention for the conference championship. Meanwhile, the Ravens should also return some key players as they look to get back to nationals. UBC Okanagan features former Lakehead guard Sofia Lluch in her first season with the team. 

Cougar Classic (Oct. 7-9): Regina, SK

Teams: Regina, UNBC, Saskatchewan, Lethbridge

An all-Canada West tournament features provincial rivals Regina and Saskatchewan. The Huskies are coming off a fifth-place finish at nationals and should be favourites in this tournament. However, the Lethbridge Pronghorns should provide a strong test having lost narrowly to Saskatchewan in the Canada West semi-finals last year. UNBC brings back leading scorers Alina Shakirova and Svetlana Boykova. 

Jenika Martens is entering her fourth season and her season of eligibility (Photo: MRU Athletics)

Debbie Ruiz Memorial Tournament (Oct. 13-15): Cape Breton, NS

Teams: Mount Royal, Windsor, UPEI, Cape Breton

This tournament pits together two strong AUS teams in UPEI and Cape Breton. Lauren Rainford is a go-to player for the Panthers and will be joined by her sister Aiden, who played at Radford and Morehead State. UPEI will be tested by a Windsor team featuring first-year post Kali Grootenboer, who played on Canada’s U18 team this summer. Mount Royal brings most of their team back, including leading scorer and rebounder Jenika Martens. 

Naismith Classic (Oct. 13-15): Waterloo, ON

Teams: Guelph, Concordia, UNBC, Waterloo

The Warriors ended their playoff drought last season and welcome some quality opponents in the 53rd annual Naismith Classic. Key players Kaitlyn Overeem, Vanessa Hughes, Meghan Sharp, Beth Howlett, Summer Pahl and Madeleine Adams are all back among others. Waterloo faces Concordia, UNBC and a Guelph Gryphons team under first-year head coach Megan Reid. Reid was the associate head coach in 2021-22 and was an assistant coach with the CEBL’s (now-defunct) Guelph Nighthawks. 

Thunderbird Invitational (Oct. 13-15): Vancouver, BC

Teams: UBC, Lethbridge, Fraser Valley

The Thunderbird Invitational is full of quality. The Thunderbirds will have to replace some key players and are looking to rebound after a 6-12 season. They host the Pronghorns as well as a strong Fraser Valley squad. The Cascades are coming off a 15-3 regular season with standout sisters Julia and Deanna Tuchscherer playing for their father, head coach Al Tuchscherer, who was named Canada West Coach of the Year. 

UBC Okanagan Tournament (Oct. 14-16): Kelowna, BC

Teams: UBC Okanagan, UNB, TBA

This marks the second preseason tournament for both UBC Okanagan and UNB. UBC Okanagan are coming off a 7-11 season as first-year guard and Simon Fraser transfer Surprise Munie was named to the Canada West all-rookie team. The Reds feature rookies Ann Bastien and Leah Travers, who played for Alberta at the Canada Summer Games. 

Sabrine Khelifi is one of six second-year backs on Laval’s roster (Photo: Laval Athletics)

Laval Tournament (Oct. 14-16): Quebec City, QC

Teams: Calgary, Laval, Bishop’s, TBA

The Rouge-et-Or once again reached nationals last year but have a lot of player turnover this year. Nine players are gone and ten players come in. One key newcomer is Bishop’s transfer and fourth-year centre Eve-Marie Houle. She joins second-year wing players Sabrine Khelifi and Frederique Beaudry-Blais, who made significant contributions in their first year. Laval will face off against Bishop’s, Calgary and possible another opponent to be announced. The Dinos missed nationals in 2021 and have a big recruiting class with nine players. It includes Latvian forward Elina Agnese-Siceva and British forward Louise Rowe as well as UNBC transfer Madison Landry. 

McGill Redbirds Classic (Oct. 14-16): Montreal, QC

Teams: McGill, Laurier, Laurentian, MacEwan

The Martlets under third-year head coach Rikkie Bowles welcome three out-of-conference opponents in Laurier, Laurentian and MacEwan. The Voyageurs feature sisters Bailey and Sydney Tabin and leading scorer Helen Lamoureaux. The Golden Hawks had a big rookie class in 2021 with 11 first-year players. OUA all-star and team MVP Cassidy Hirtle was one of them and will continue to be an important player this season. The Griffins finished 4-12 but does bring back Canada West all-star MacKenzie Farmer. 

Female Empowerment Festival (Oct. 20-22): Montreal, QC

Teams: Concordia, York, Toronto, Trinity Western

The tournament features four teams with stellar and up-and-coming head coaches. Tenicha Gittens’ Stingers have always been competitive. Christa Lodge Eniojukan’s Lions finished 10-6 last season and made the OUA playoffs. Tamara Tatham’s Varsity Blues has many second-year players – including OUA all-rookie team guard forward Jada Poon Tip – as well as fourth-year guard Ellen Ougrinov. The Spartans under long-time head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul are looking to build off a stellar 15-3 season. They have veterans Nicole Fransson (Canada West All-star), Jolene Vlieg and Hailey Van Roekel to help them do so. 

Tindall Invitational Tournament (Oct. 21-23): Kingston, ON

Teams: Queen’s, Waterloo, Alberta, Bishop’s 

The Gaels had a magical run to winning a U Sports bronze medal this past April in Kingston. Now, they look will turn to their returning players and newcomers to replace the likes of OUA All-stars Julia Chadwick, Emma Ritcey, Sophie de Goede and others. They take on a rising Waterloo team, a Bishop’s squad with almost everyone back – including U Sports All-Canadian Amaiquen Siciliano – and an Alberta team with many returning veterans as well. The Gaiters are looking to breakthrough and reach nationals while the Pandas are looking to return there. 

Eve Uwayseu won an OUA and national title since coming over from Windsor (Photo: Curtis Martin/TMU Athletics)

Darcel Wright Memorial Classic (Oct. 21-23): Toronto, ON

Teams: TMU, McMaster, Windsor, Victoria, Cape Breton, Western, Saskatchewan, UBC

To cap off the fall exhibition slate is arguably the biggest tournament of them all. The Darcel Wright Memorial Classic has always featured excellent teams but this year, it will be an 8-team elimination style one with a consolation bracket and a championship game – like nationals. 

The field is deep. McMaster returns almost their entire team and adding OCAA star Jade Addai. Western is coming off another OUA semi-final berth under Nate McKibbon while Cape Breton, Saskatchewan are among the favourites to win the conference. Windsor, UBC and Victoria are also strong teams. The newly-named Bold lose many important players from their national championship team but do feature key contributors in Eve Uwayseu, Rachel Farwell, Kaillie Hall and more. TMU should be among the OUA’s top teams and this tournament will be a good test of that. 

There are also some late December tournaments to keep your eye on. UQAM and Ottawa are both hosting them. McMaster is playing in the UQAM tournament while Bishop’s is playing in the Ottawa one. More opponents are still to be confirmed and more tournaments and exhibition games around that time could also still be announced. 

Featured Image: U Sports Website

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