By Libaan Osman
Initially, fear kicked in.
Ryerson women’s basketball forward Rachel Farwell was set to become a regular starter for the team in January.
Farwell had massive shoes to fill—taking over the role of Jama Bin-Edward, who suffered a season-ending injury on Jan. 10 in a road game against the Waterloo Warriors.
A sense of pressure ran through her veins, knowing she would be inserted into the lineup and knowing how special of a season Bin-Edward was having—averaging 14.6 points and 4.0 rebounds on 50.8 per cent shooting in 26.2 minutes per game—before the knee injury.
“She was one of our top scorers, top defenders and just an overall solid player on all ends,” Farwell said. “When we lost her, the initial [feeling] was just a lot of disappointment within the team. It took a long time to settle into different roles.”
Farwell was considered a reliable catch and shoot player that came off the bench for Ryerson. After Bin-Edward’s injury, she had to adjust to playing over 30 minutes a game.
Long conversations between Farwell and head coach Carly Clarke took place to discuss what she could expect from her moving forward. Clarke had patience with Farwell, who averaged just 11.2 minutes per game in her freshman season, as Ryerson’s veteran roster that year made it tough to crack the rotation.
With roles shifting and players expected to take on larger responsibilities, Farwell needed to accelerate her development—but she also knew the team wasn’t asking her solely to make up for the loss of Bin-Edward. It was more of a collective effort.
“She’s a sharpshooter, we all knew that from the get-go”
The seniors on the roster, specifically Rams fifth-year point guard Hayley Robertson, made the transition to starter seamless for Farwell. Robertson helped guide Farwell through some of the frustrations and confusion that came along with playing major minutes.
Trust was built between the veterans and herself. Whenever her name was called, she responded emphatically. In nine of the last 10 regular-season games, she scored double-digit points for Ryerson.
Farwell finished the year averaging 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds as she led Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in three-point percentage, shooting at a 47.0 per cent clip.
“She’s a sharpshooter, we all knew that from the get-go,” Robertson said. “The rate that she’s able to hit, the confidence that she has only being a second-year is going to continue.”
The entire second half of the season saw Farwell try new things and learn from her mistakes—growing immensely as a player.
It all led to her exploding in Ryerson’s final game of the season against the Laurentian Voyageurs. Farwell wasn’t just raising her game to another level—she was evolving as an instrumental piece in Clarke’s rotation and the program for years to come.
“The last buzzer went and it was just the best feeling ever”
She tied a program record for points in a game, dropping 36 while hitting a record eight triples on the night.
“That was a crazy game,” Farwell recalls. “It felt amazing to have that rhythm and be scoring that amount of points. That was something I’ve never done on this team.”
The team managed to finish first in the OUA Central division. Statistically, they ranked first in three-point percentage and defensive rebounds while finishing second in blocks, points allowed and opponents’ field goal percentage.
In arguably their most important game of the year—on the road in Ottawa with a chance to punch their ticket to nationals—Farwell rose to the occasion. She dropped a game-high 21 points while converting all seven of her free throws to help advance her team to the U Sports Final 8 tournament.
“The last buzzer went and it was just the best feeling. We’ve gotten so much thrown at us this year with injuries and other obstacles,” Farwell said. “It was really just a beautiful moment for us. In the locker room afterward, we were dancing and singing. It was a moment where we can just take a breath.”
Farwell can’t remember a practice where the team had a fully healthy roster, so after helping her team reach their second straight national appearance, she felt like she was on cloud nine.
But once nationals approached, it was herself watching on the sidelines. Farwell suffered a sprained ankle in the OUA championship game against Brock.
A day before nationals, the team had a couple of on-court sessions to prepare and Farwell couldn’t run. Her ankle was sore, swollen and her mobility wasn’t there.
The morning before Ryerson’s quarter-finals matchup against the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), Farwell had one of the toughest conversations with the coaching staff: the decision to have her not dress for the game.
Without Farwell, the team suffered a five-point loss to UPEI. When coach Clarke was asked about the absence of Farwell post-game, she could only imagine having her sharpshooter available.
“If [Farwell] is in the game, it’s different. But you gotta play with the cards that you have. The players that we had today played their asses off.”
Farwell’s season didn’t end in the most picture-perfect way, but looking back this season was all about growth for Farwell and the Rams.
In just her second season, she has become one of the most feared three-point shooters in the country.
But Farwell isn’t satisfied just yet, hoping to continue branching out her game and become a lethal defender that can stay in front of quicker guards.
“I discovered a new level of perseverance that I didn’t realize that I had,” said Farwell. “I was put into a couple of situations where I wasn’t sure if I’d be successful or not. I learned to push through those situations and that I had another level of grit.”