Cougars still top ranking this season

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Clawing in those wins and smirking sleekly while they do it. Lee Lim

They’ve worked hard to get where they are and don’t plan on taking their position for granted

The Cougars women’s basketball team is currently ranked first in Canada West and second in U Sports, with a record of 12-2 so far this season. This past weekend, the University of Regina women’s basketball team swept the University of British Columbia’s team, beating them 60-53 in the first game and 73-64 in the second game in Vancouver.

In the first game of the weekend, Cara Misskey led the Cougars with 19 points and ended the game with six assists and four rebounds. Zoe Hartmann also had double digits in scoring with 12 points. The second game of the weekend saw Jade Belmore and Hartmann put up 14 points each. Belmore also had 11 rebounds, five assists, and four steals across this team win.

When asked whether they feel pressure being a top team in the country, Julia Vydrova said they’re take things “game by game. We focus on every game that’s coming up. We can’t underestimate our opponents. They can all beat us.” Hartmann added, “I do feel the pressure, but I mean there’s always pressure, right? But I’m very grateful for being able to be in that situation that I have pressure. And I think there’s nothing really given if you’re number one in the country, it doesn’t matter. People are still going to beat you if you’re not playing well.”

The Cougars’ recent win over UBC clinched the Cougars a playoff berth for the 27th straight season. When thinking about 27 consecutive playoff berths, it’s hard not to think about past alumni. Reflecting on what it means to be a Cougar and alumni of the Cougars women’s basketball team, current wing Maren Tunison said “It is definitely an honour to be a member of the Cougars women’s basketball team. It is amazing to continue the legacy of success and clinch a playoff spot again this year. It is wonderful to have many alumni that are still involved with the team and with the basketball community in and around Regina. In fact, two former players are now assistant coaches for our team, Michaela [Kleisinger] and Carly [Graham]. They just couldn’t go away!” Tunison finished with a laugh.

When you rank this highly, it’s celebrations all season long. photo courtesy of Tejas Vejay

 The women’s basketball team has made all 21 postseasons possible since being part of Canada West. The last time the team didn’t make the post-season was in 1995, when the Cougars were a part of the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The Cougars women’s basketball team is trying to improve from last year’s result when they came in third in Canada West, just falling short of making it to the U Sport National Championships.

When asked about what motivates the team from last year’s results, Tunison said “missing out on Nationals last year was devastating. We had put in all the work, and just barely missed out on the wildcard spot. Knowing how close we were, we flipped our focus into making sure we didn’t feel that way again this year. We had an off-season full of small group training and putting in work in the weight room. Everyone bought in from day one, and our commitment to each other and to the team has only grown as the year has gone on.”

Canada West playoffs are three weekends away, and the Cougars are hoping to clinch home-court advantage. The team is focused on the upcoming game. However, Hartmann explained that “Dave [Taylor, head coach] is usually really good at just thinking ahead all the time, so I try and just step back and just think about the game and not anything in the future.” The Cougars felt prepared going into the season and are feeling prepared going into playoffs.

Tunison explained “all of our coaches have set us up to succeed this season. They have developed us as individuals and as a team, and have prepared us to take on every opponent each weekend.” The Cougars currently do not know who they will be facing come the Canada West playoffs. It is likely that the Cougars will be playing in the second week of playoffs, on either February 24 or 25. It has yet to be determined if the Cougars will be hosting their playoff game or if they will have to travel for an away game.

Coverage of the Canada West women’s basketball playoffs will be broadcast on Canada West TV, which does require payment in order to watch. This year, Cape Breton will be hosting the U Sports Women’s Basketball Final 8 from March 9to 12. The games will be digitally broadcast in English as part of a new four-year deal with CBC Sports. Fans will be able to watch via cbcsports.ca with the free CBC Gem streaming service and the CBC Sports app.

If the Cougars continue to play with determination and grit out on the court and continue to find ways to win, they will be successful in the post-season and reach their goal of making nationals. The Cougars’ strong team culture and the preparedness they feel will help give them the edge going into playoffs. When speaking about team culture, Tunison said “I credit our success to how tight knit we are as a team. We truly care about each other both on and off the court. I feel comfortable around every one of my teammates and know they are there to support me in any way I need. We have a team where each person feels at ease to be themselves, but are also pushed to reach limits they thought were out of reach. This culture is imperative to our success and growth both as people and players.”

This weekend, the Cougars play the University of Lethbridge at home. Lethbridge is currently ranked 13th in Canada West. The following weekend, the Cougars will host the University of Calgary who are currently ranked eighth in Canada West. In the last weekend of the regular season, the Cougars will be on the road in Edmonton playing against MacEwan University who are currently ranked 14th out of 17 in Canada West.

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