Quebec – UQAM’s major 68-59 upset over Bishop’s in the RSEQ final closed out the 2022-23 RSEQ women’s basketball season with a bang. The Gaiters ran away with the conference last season, but things could be more interesting in 2023-24. There are several teams that stand out at the top heading into the season.
The best offensive team by a wide margin in 2022-23 also boasted the third best defence in the conference. They were gearing up for a run at the U SPORTS Championships at 14-2, but a feisty UQAM team had other ideas. The Gaiters hit a ton of triples last season, but they lost their top two shooters coming into 2023-24 in RSEQ Athlete of Excellence Amaiquen Siciliano and Jennifer Louis. The loss of Siciliano, especialy, will hurt the Gaiters this season. She led the conference in scoring (22.5 points per game), and led the team in three-pointers (39), steals (24), and assists (67). Losing her services will bridge the gap between Bishop’s and the rest of the pack. Another important loss is Jael Kabunda, the RSEQ’s leading rebounder last season with 152 boards. To boot, seven out of 13 Gaiters are first-year players in 2023-24.
But the Gaiters will retain some important pieces. Victoria Gauna, the Gaiters’ third-best scorer last season (11.7 points per game), will be Bishop’s most important player in 2023-24. Having RSEQ Coach of the Year Dianna Ros at the helm doesn’t hurt, either. Those two pieces will provide stability to what could be a turbulent season for Gaiters’ basketball.
The best defensive team last season ran away with the conference lead in steals with 186, 41 more than second-place Bishop’s. UQAM held their opponent to less than a mere 50 points on four occasions last season. At 9-7, they grinded their way to close victories over Laval and Bishop’s in the RSEQ playoffs before falling 75-72 to eventual silver medalists Queen’s in the U SPORTS Championship quarterfinals.
UQAM will be a considerable offensive team in 2023-24. Getting back their top two scorers in Fredlyne (13.8 points per game) and Fredlaine Verrier (13.0 points per game) for their third years of eligibility will help. They also made up UQAM’s top two rebounders, and Fredlaine led the conference in steals (46) in 2022-23.
Losing Alexe Dufresne (12.1 points per game in 2022-23) after her fifth year will leave a hole to fill, since she had an extremely important all-around impact for the Citadins. Replacing Renaldo Meignan with Gerry Neree as bench boss creates some uncertainty as well, since Neree has never coached at the U SPORTS level before, although he has several years of experience as an assistant coach.
Laval Rouge et Or
Laval lost an extremely close season-long battle to UQAM in 2022-23. All five games between the two teams were decided by less than 10 points, with the two teams splitting four regular season matchups and UQAM emerging from the RSEQ semi-final. All signs point towards another neck-and-neck confrontation this season.
As the best shooting team from beyond the arc last season, Laval will be happy to retain their top-two three-point shooters in Lea-Sophie Verret (29.1 per cent) and Elodie Lajoie (28.1 per cent) as they are both entering their third year. But Laval will need better all-around play to take a step in 2023-24. Their 88 steals in 2022-23 were last in the RSEQ by a wide margin. But Sabrine Khelifi–who led Laval with 21 of those 88–is entering her third year and will have a big defensive impact this season. The Rouge et Or are in good hands with Guillaume Giroux behind the bench. He has taken the program to three RSEQ championships during his tenure and has a lifetime record of 83-34 behind the bench. Laval will be a top team once again in 2023-24.
A 3-13 record did not do the Martlets justice in 2022-23. They were a very young team who could take a big step this season. Stephy Tchoukuiegno led the team in scoring (9.7 points per game) and three-point field goals (17) as a rookie. Daniella Mbengo made a big defensive impact with 22 steals. Both players made the RSEQ all-rookie team.
Emma-Jane Scotten–second-best scorer on the Martlets behind Tchoukuiego in 2022-23–is entering her third year of eligibility. McGill’s combination of youth and experience will make them an interesting team this season.
It was too little, too late for the Stingers at the end of last season. Winning their final three games did not save them from a semi-final matchup against the powerhouse Gaiters, who downed them 75-69.
But Concordia retained first-team all-star Areej Burgonio for her final year of eligibility. She led the team in scoring (18.8 points per game, second in the RSEQ), steals (31), and assists (89) in 2022-23. Another interesting piece is Rowena Blais, who made the RSEQ all-rookie team last season. Her 26 triples led the Stingers and got her the bronze medal in RSEQ three-point shooting. Concordia has looked great in pre-season so they could be poised to rise to the top of the RSEQ once again.