By Gavin Axelrod & Jack MacCool
If you were ever looking for a reason to skip class, there’s no better excuse than the Darcel Wright Memorial Classic taking place at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) from Oct. 21 to Oct. 23.
The annual women’s basketball tournament will see eight teams from nearly every U Sports conference gather at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) for exhibition play.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Friday’s action.
TMU vs. University of Victoria, 12 p.m.
Toronto Metropolitan University’s first matchup of the Darcel Wright Memorial Classic pits them against the University of Victoria Vikes. The Bold enter the matchup with a 1-4 pre-season record in five games played. Victoria is winless in pre-season action with two losses coming at the hands of the Calgary Dinos.
The Vikes’ top two scorers from last season, Tana Pankratz and Ashlyn Day, are both returning to the program for their third and fifth years respectively. The two guards combined for just over 35 points per game last season.
Cape Breton vs. Western, 2 p.m.
The Cape Breton University Capers roll into Toronto with a 4-2 pre-season record. The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference member finished last season with an 8-7 record. However, they made a run to the AUS championship game, losing 71-65 to Acadia University.
Second-year guard Kiyara Letlow is a Capers player to watch this weekend. The hometown star averaged 22.7 points and 15.7 rebounds per game last season.
Letlow’s scoring touch ranked second in the country and her rebounding totals were the best in U Sports. The Torontonian was named U Sports Rookie of the Year and earned second-team All-Canadian honours.
Western comes into Friday’s clash with Cape Breton after clinching a 13-3 record last season, falling to the Brock University Badgers 77-58 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Final.
Their third-year guard Ariane Saumure was named OUA West Defensive Player of the Year last season, making for a key matchup with Letlow.
Saskatchewan vs. Windsor, 4 p.m.
The Saskatchewan Huskies could be the favourites to win this year’s event.
Saskatchewan won the Canada West conference for the fifth time in the last six seasons this past March. The Huskies looked primed to defend their 2021 U Sports national championship, until they were upset by host Queen’s in the quarter-final at the national tournament last year.
The Huskies player to watch this weekend is Carly Ahlstrom. She dropped 28 points against the University of Regina on Oct. 9, and was also named a Canada West Second-Team All-Star during the 2021-22 campaign.
The Windsor Lancers also have an extensive national championship history themselves. Windsor won five national titles in a row, from the 2010-11 season to the 2014-15 season. However, the team went 9-13 and lost to the University of Guelph Gryphons in round one of the OUA playoffs last year.
Reigning OUA all-rookie team member Mariame Dehkissia is a player to watch for the Lancers after a tremendous debut season.
University of British Columbia vs. McMaster University, 6 p.m.
Friday’s final game will see the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds take on the McMaster University Marauders. UBC finished last season with a 6-12 record in Canada West and has had its moments in this year’s pre-season, beating the Calgary Dinos in their first game, before dropping their next two to the Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Calgary.
McMaster enters the event off the back of a 9-6 record in the OUA West Division last year. In exhibition action this season, the Marauders defeated the Laval Rouge et Or 66-58 at the end of September. Fifth-year guard Sarah Gates scored 25 points for McMaster in the game and will look to build off her U Sports All-Canadian Second-Team honours.
McMaster will provide an excellent measuring stick for UBC to see where the squad is at as they enter the regular season. The Thunderbirds also have their top scorer returning from last season as Hailey Counsell enters her fourth year with the program.
Correction: A previous version of this story referenced UBC as the Firebirds, when in fact, they are the Thunderbirds. The Eye regrets this error.