By Monique Phillips
Last season, head coach Charles Kissi set a goal for Ryerson’s women’s basketball team: finish first in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) eastern division. Marred by inconsistent play, and an early-season six- game losing streak, they inevitably fell short of achieving Kissi’s lofty goals. Although they finished last season with a sub-par 10-12 record, the Rams still managed to qualify for the playoffs and made it to the OUA East semi-final game, where they eventual lost to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
With the addition of six new players, the Rams hope to compete for first place and make another deep playoff run.
“There is a lot of talent [on this team],” said shooting guard Kelsey Wright. “This rookie class is the best rookie class I have yet to play with.”
While Kissi is taking on a number of rookies in his third season as the team’s head coach, Chloe Mago is the undisputed prize of his recruiting class. Throughout her final year of high school, Mago averaged 19.4 points, 5.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game. However, Rams fans will have to wait to see Mago in action due to a recent calf muscle injury. How long she will be out it is still to be determined.
“She’s a great impact player and a great point guard. We are looking forward to her return,” said Kissi. “If she wasn’t injured she would have definitely been a contender for the OUA rookie team.”
While the team is carrying a number of rookies, the Rams` roster boasts a number of veteran players. In addition to Wright, who led the team in three-point shooting percentage last season, is point guard Ashley MacDonald.
Last season, Macdonald averaged a team-high 16.9 points per game, which helped make Ryerson the second highest scoring team in the OUA. MacDonald was also ranked second in points scored with a total of 373 points for the 2010-11 season. Entering her fifth year, Ryerson`s reigning female athlete of the year is looking to take on more of a leadership role.
“Being one of the older girls I want to be more of a leader and let my experience help out the team as much as I can,” she said.
Throughout the pre-season, the Rams have participated in ten exhibition games, including the Darcel Memorial Tournament where they made the finals for the first time in school history.
“From the exhibition games we were able to see what we need to work on as a team,” said third-year guard Dayana Gechkova. “We have been working on our defence continuously in practice and that is always something that can be worked on. Offense comes from defence and our main goal is to get defensive stops.”
Wright agrees with Gechkova’s assessment, and feels they have analyzed their weaknesses and have taken the necessary measures to fix it.
“From the losses we learned [that] we should go from zone to man to man,” she said.
This pre-season, the women’s basketball team has gotten off to a strong start, as they have defeated Wilfred Laurier (currently ranked as the ninth team in Canada) and the Western Mustangs, a team that they lost to by 30 points last season.
“Both of those were really big wins for us,” said Kissi. “It definitely shows that we are moving ahead [and] are well on our way to achieving our goals. But keeping in mind that it’s pre-season, it’s a different game when it’s the regular season.”