By Steve Petrick
A case of jet lag kept women’s basketball coach Sandra Pothier from flying off the handle during Ryerson’s first exhibition game this year.
Pothier, who has made her living pacing frantically up and down in front of Ryerson’s bench for the past nine years, was calm during the Rams game against the University of Windsor.
She spent most of her time hunched on her seat, as Ryerson edged the Lancers 57-50 in front of roughly 30 fans Kerr gym Friday night.
Pothier had just returned from the Sydney Olympics six days before the game, and was still feeling the effects of the 15-hour time difference.
“I hope I didn’t show it that much,” she said following the game. “Because I was exited to be back here with my team and hoping that we put on a good show today.”
Pothier worked as an advance for the Canadian women’s team, which finished the Olympic tournament in 10th spot with a 2-4 record.
Working with the world’s top coaches, she said, will help her coach the Rams.
She’ll need all the experience she has this season, since eight of the 12 Ryerson players are in their first or second year with the team.
She’ll have to be wide awake this Friday when her young team takes on the veteran University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the Rams’ first game of the 14th annual Ryerson Women’s Basketball Classic tournament at 6 p.m.in Kerr gym.
The Thunderbirds won the preseason tournament last year and finished the regular season fourth out of seven teams in the Canada West division. The top two teams in that division were finalists for the Canadian university championship.
Pothier admits her team will be an underdog in the eight-team tournament, which also features the defending national champion Victoria Vikes and Ontario West champion Western Mustangs.
“I know we’re young, but I really believe in our young players,” she said. “I believe in our veterans and I believe if people don’t take us seriously, we’ll take some good teams out.”
Back to help the Rams out is fifth-year guard Miruna Muller, who has been an OUA East all-star for the past two seasons.
For her final year of CIAU eligibility, Muller will be complemented by third-year post Mandi-May Bond and fourth-year forward Eva Ain.
Ain, an early childhood education student, played two years ago, but skipped last season to focus on school.
“I think we’re going to fare well,” Ain said. “I think this is the most solid team I’ve played on. We all get along and we’re all working very hard.”
Last Friday’s exhibition game against the traditionally weak Lancers gave the Rams an opportunity to shake out some first-game jitters.
Despite an ugly first half, in which Ryerson hit less than 20 per cent of its free throws, it came out with a six-point lead. With their aggressive defensive play, the Rams kept their margin intact for most of the second half.
A plus for Ryerson was the fact its two leading scorers were rookies.
Tamara Alleyne-Gittens, a 6-foot forward from Montreal, and Crystal Dickson each had 15 points. Both players impressed Pothier.
“Tamara is an incredibly tough defender,” Pothier said. “I think she’s one of the most physical posts I’ve ever seen. Crystal is very versatile. She’s got good moves in the paint.”
With a team this young, Pothier admitted she is more concerned with using tournament games as tune-ups than competing for the title. Ryerson won’t start playing for keeps until its regular-season opener on Nov. 10, against the York Yeowomen.
“Every game you prepare to win,” she said. “But I’m more concerned with the level of play.
“I don’t want to make the total emphasis on winning.”