Ashley Koehan always looks good in this never-old photo.

Eyeopener file photo

The ball proves mightier than the pen

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Ryerson’s women’s basketball team bounced from 5-15 last year to 11-9 this season

A sports column by Noah Love

How quickly five months have passed.

In the third issue of the year, I said the women’s basketball team would be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. The team lost their two best players when Miruna Muller ran out her OUA eligibility and Eva Ain graduated.

By the end of the season, the Rams had one of the shortest benches in the OUA.

During the 2000-2001 season, injuries ravaged the team and they struggled throughout the 20 game schedule. Sometimes there were only seven players on the bench, and the team rarely had a chance to practise five-on-five.

This past weekend, against the odds, Ryerson beat the University of Ottawa Gee Gees 61-43 to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the OUA East division. This means Ryerson (11-9) will play first-place Laurentian University (17-2) in the OUA east semi-final at the University of Toronto.

While it’s unlikely they’ll beat the Voyageurs, it’s amazing they got here at all.

What wasn’t I counting on that led the little team that could over the mountain?

Certainly not an MVP performance from perpetually injured Tamara Alleyene-Gittens. The 5-foot-11 post/ forward played her way through injuries in the first half, averaging just over 16 points-per-game. Her physical condition deteriorated in the second half, though. She finished the season with a 12.1 scoring average.

Head coach Sandra Pothier and assistant coach Richard Dean did a masterful job of keeping their team above water when the injuries started to pile up. They were outnumbered 10-8 against the terrible Gee Gees, but beat them by 18 points (they won’t have the same kind of luck against Laurentian, who have three of the top 15 scorers in the OUA).

Karina Navarro’s comeback was one of the big stories of the Rams’ year. Ryerson’s only fifth-year player was also their most consistent. Often their scoring leader, Navarro’s production tailed off in the middle of the season, but she has regained her scoring touch in recent games.

The only thing I foresaw was a solid second year for Ashley Koehan, the 5 foot-6 point guard was the Rams’ second-leader scorer and remains the team’s best hope for future success.

Now there’s a little matter of a bet The Eyeopener made with the women’s team.

I never wanted the team to do badly. In fact, I said I wanted them to win. And to motivate them we bet them dinner that they wouldn’t make it. That’s throwing gas in a grease-fire, I suppose, but the team opened the season with a 6-3 record. Then they started to lose, but not just lose. They were losing to teams they beat earlier in the season, and teams that had bad records. So in the spirit of the competition, we put a blurb in the masthead that said the team would “fold like a cheap tent.” That must have got the blood rushing again, because the team won a few games they definitely should have lost, and by good fortune, York University abandoned the play that had them in second-place early in the season.

Other than that, I didn’t have such a bad season. I correctly predicted poor seasons for the soccer teams (the men came close, but 2-6-2 still doesn’t constitute a reason to jump for joy.

I missed the boat on the hockey team. I couldn’t have known Queen’s would be so bad that they would replace Ryerson in the cellar of the division.

I said the women’s volleyball team would be the class of the school, and with big upsets over York and Toronto and a 10-7 record in the very tough OUA East, I think they were the best.

The men’s basketball team beat the bottom-feeders and lost to the class of the league, as predicted.

But the women’s team threw me for a loop.

As a result of all of this, the Rams are having dinner on us. But not only that. Each player on the team gets to write a personal column on the subject of what an ass I am for writing them off, all of which we will publish on our website. Fun page permitting, the best one will be in next week’s paper.

Anyway, congratulations Rams. Barring a jaw-dropping upset on March 1, it doesn’t get better than this.

In the other semi-final, the surging University of Toronto Blues (15-4), who upset Laurentian this past weekend, will be in the home colours against Queen’s (12-7), in a rematch of last year’s semi-final.

The OUA East division final will be played the following day, March 2. The winner of the OUA East is granted a placement in the C.I.S. Championships at McMaster University in Hamilton.

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