The U of R women’s basketball team is at the top of its game

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

To say the first half of the University of Regina women’s basketball team’s season was a success would be an understatement.

The Cougars currently sit first in the Canada West standings as well as first in the nation with a stunning 7-0 record. However, the undefeated record comes as no surprise to fans, as the team is merely fulfilling the expectations of what many are foreseeing to be a championship season.

The Cougars are pleased to have numerous returning players on their roster including post Brittany Read, who is returning to action after a knee injury kept her sidelined for all of 2010-11, and guard Joanna Zalesiak, the Polish sensation who dazzles the crowd with her ball control and wide-range shooting ability.

Although several players have returned to the U of R court this season, it’s a new roster addition that has all of the fans buzzing. Point guard Michelle Clark transferred to the U of R from Purdue University in order to pursue a master’s degree in business administration, a move that the Cougars have welcomed with open arms.

If the Cougars are to remain at the top of the food chain this season, Clark will have to be a strong contributor every time she steps onto the court. Although the prospect of being ranked No. 1 in the country could cause some players to go for cover, Clark believes that the Cougars are up for the challenge.

“There’s always pressure when you’re ranked No.1,” Clark said. “We have a big target on our backs, but I think we do a good job of not letting the rankings affect how we play.”

There isn’t much criticism to give a team that is currently undefeated and atop the standings, but Clark believes there is still room for improvement.

“I am very happy with how we’ve done in the first half of the season. I think we had some games where we executed really well. But we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of improvements to make for the next half of the season,” she said. “I don’t think any of us are satisfied.”

The Cougars have been out of game action since Nov. 26, but will return to the court this weekend to take on the Brandon Bobcats. However, hometown fans will have an extended break, as the team does not play at home until Jan. 20. Although the break could swing the momentum the Cougars had on their side, Clark believes the extended break is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think the break is good,” said the former McDonald’s all-American finalist. “It’s hard to go from playing every weekend to taking a month off but, if anything, I think we will come back in January excited to play. We have disciplined players with strong work ethics, so I’m confident that we’re all working hard during this time off.”

If the women’s basketball team is going to become national champions at the end of this season, its players are going to have to get past some tough competition. Lucky for Clark, since this is her first season playing CIS ball, the competition is new to her.

“I honestly don’t know much about the teams up here,” she said. “We have played good teams in preseason and throughout league.”

No matter who the Cougars will face during the second half of their season, the team’s players have just one goal in mind, and no team will stand in their way.

“I think our biggest goal is the same as any other team: to win nationals,” Clark said. “But, in order to do that, we’ll need to reach our smaller goals like lowering the amount of turnovers per game and improving our transition defence.”

The Cougars quest for the cup continues on Friday night in Brandon, and although they may still have a few things to work on, the countdown to nationals has begun.

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