Hamilton, ON- With half of the OUA regular season already in the books, it’s been an interesting one so far. Three teams are ranked in the latest U SPORTS Top 10 ranking. Those are the three undefeated teams in Queen’s, Ottawa and Guelph.
The race to the Critelli Cup should be a fierce one as well, with other contenders in the mix. Here are five takeaways from the first half of the campaign.
Tough OUA East
The OUA East looked like the toughest division on paper before the season tipped off, and it has played out to form. Defending U SPORTS bronze medallist Queen’s lead the pack at 10-0 while Ottawa is not far behind at 9-0. The Carleton Ravens are in third place at 7-2 and have the chance to catch Queen’s and Ottawa with three games against them in the second half of the season.
All three teams have all-star calibre players. Gee-Gees post Brigitte Lebefevre-Okankwu leads the conference in field goal percentage (56.9 percent). Queen’s Julia Chadwick tops all players in average rebounds (11.4), while Carleton Kali Pocrnic continues to improve as a do-it-all point guard.
Sarah Gates Keeps Scoring
In terms of scoring, one player stands out above them all: McMaster’s Sarah Gates. The Newmarket guard is in her fifth season and sixth year at McMaster. She leads the OUA with 27.2 points per game – almost seven points ahead of second place Vanessa Hughes of Waterloo – while setting new career highs.
Gates set a Marauders record with 47 points in their home opener against York. She finished the semester with 39 points against York as well. Marauders head coach Theresa Burns has said she’s scoring on another level. Gates’ performance will be important for the Marauders as they lead the OUA Central Division with a 6-4 record.
With a new season comes a new group of rookies. There have been some stellar ones so far. TMU point guard Kait Nichols leads all U SPORTS rookies in steals, assist-to-turnover ratio and average rebounds. She’s also averaging 9.6 points in 29.6 minutes – playing a key role for the defending OUA and national champs.
Carleton forward Jacqueline Urban is right up there with her rebounding, averaging 9.8. She’s third on the Ravens in scoring (8.6 points per game) and minutes played (26.1). The Ancaster native played for Lincoln Prep in the OSBA and Team Ontario at the Canada Summer Games this past summer and has continued her strong performances in the nation’s capital. Some other notable first-year players include Theresa Brown (Brock), Kali Grootenboer (Windsor), Kathryn White (Laurier) and Alexis Remekie (Ontario Tech).
Standout Guelph and Waterloo
In the OUA West division, two teams are currently above the rest. The Guelph Gryphons have been a competitive team in recent years but are now sixth in the U SPORTS rankings with an 8-0 record. They are led by first-year head coach Megan Reid – a former player at York and Western – who spent the past four seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at Guelph under Mark Walton.
The Gryphons have depth, with veterans MacKeely Shantz and Natalie Vigna leading the way. Second-year guard Renee Armstrong has provided strong play with her scoring (10.3 points per game) and rebounding (7.4). Guelph has beaten Western and Carleton, among others, and will be tested in the second half against Carleton, Ottawa, Queen’s, TMU and others.
The Waterloo Warriors have built upon their breakthrough 2021-22 season when they ended their playoff drought. Under head coach Jessica Roque, the Warriors are off to a 7-1 start, with their only loss being a 70-63 one to Queen’s. Their returning veterans have been their top players. Vanessa Hughes, Kaitlyn Overeem, Summer Pahl, Beth Howlett and Madeleine Adams have shown their experience and production.
TMU Getting Hot
It was a rocky start for the Bold, having lost seven of their eight preseason games and their first four regular season games. There’s been noticeable roster turnover from last year with many crucial players gone and the returning players having to fill new roles. However, Carly Clarke’s team has closed out 2022 with four wins in their last five games. TMU sits at 4-5 – third in an OUA Central division that remains wide open.
Led by Nichols and returning veterans Rachel Farwell, Jayme Foreman and Tiya Misir, the Bold have been in several close games against quality teams but haven’t been able to close it out. Perhaps by building off their wins in November and December, they can flip the script in the new year as they take on more top-tier opponents.
Featured Image: Laurel Jarvis/Guelph Athletics