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Women’s basketball looks to rebound

Travis Piercy / The Brunswickan

Travis Piercy / The Brunswickan

It’s been a rough few years for the UNB Varsity Reds women’s basketball team.

The squad hasn’t finished at or above the .500 mark since the 2010-11 season. They qualified for the playoffs in 2013 with a 2-18 record because they were hosts. The 2013-14 season was another tough one for the team, finishing seventh in the Atlantic University Sport standings with a 5-15 record.

Despite the less-than-impressive record last year, head coach Jeff Speedy pointed out that the Reds started to hit their stride in the final few weeks of the season, creating some optimism heading into this year’s campaign.

“To be honest, I think if there was another two or three weeks left in the season we would have been a .500 team by the time it was done,” Speedy said. “Our last three or four games were by far our best three or four games.”

“It was still a disappointing season. I thought we were playing quite good in October and then I don’t think we really hit our stride until the end [of the season]. It certainly was a motivating factor for everybody over the summer, that’s for sure.”

The Varsity Reds got off to a good start, owning a 3-2 record five games into the season. A nine-game losing streak followed that start though, and even though the team played fairly well in the final month of the year, it wasn’t enough to earn a playoff spot.

Speedy noted that the loss of former all-star Claire Colborne, who left the team last October, created a big hole in the team’s lineup.

“There were definitely some games where it was over two minutes into the game,” the coach said. “But there weren’t that many games where it felt like we were outmatched. We just couldn’t do enough things to win.”

The Varsity Reds will also be starting this season without a few key players. Veteran point guard Awo Farah left the team last month due to personal reasons while fourth-year starting point guard Colleen Daly will miss six to eight weeks with an ankle injury and Nicole LaFleur will miss up to a month with an ankle injury.

“Awo and Colleen were starters and Nicole had started a game or two once Awo left. Probably, with how she was playing, [Nicole] would have started a lot more. It’s three pretty key players, for sure.”

Speedy said the team is hoping some of their younger players will “age quicker” and help fill some holes, specifically LaFleur, once healthy, and second-year point guard Grace Wade.

UNB posted a 4-3 record in pre-season play in October, which included winning two of three games at the annual Helen Campbell Tournament held at the Richard J. Currie Center. Unfortunately for the Varsity Reds, the lineup they used during that tournament will not be their lineup when the regular season begins.

“I thought the brand of basketball we played at the Helen Campbell was as good as this team has played in two or three years. But then things started unravel a little bit after that with Awo, then Colleen and then Nicole. We still need to figure out a way to play as well as we did that weekend.”

As for key players to watch this season, Speedy cited third-year post Katelyn Mangold and fourth-year transfer forward Kiley DeLong along with Daly and LaFleur.

“I think there is enough good things going on that we can still build. I think the league is wide open this year. I think you could ask the eight [AUS] coaches to rank the eight teams and I don’t think anybody would have the same ranking. It’s really wide open.

“How quickly these girls get healthy and how much a couple of our young kids grow up will be indicative if we can still compete for the championship. I don’t think we’re ever going to get blown out and I think we’re going to win our fair share of games. I’m definitely excited to see what this group can do.”

The team has yet to come together and set goals for this season, but Speedy does have a couple things he would like to see achieved.

“One of the things I can’t stand is just looking at the scoreboard and focusing on the end result. I think if you worry about the process and do the right things then the wins and the record will take care of itself.

“There’s a lot of good things about our program’s culture that I like and there’s one or two things that we’re trying to change. We’re just trying to focus on those things – and those things would be consistent effort all the time and really playing as a team.”

The Varsity Reds open the regular season at home this Friday, Nov. 7 against the Acadia Axewomen at 6 p.m. at the Currie Center.

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