Talented Mounties hope for playoff success

Halfway through the six-month-long ACAA basketball season, both the men’s and women’s Mounties find themselves near the top of their conferences, poised to make championship runs.

After the first half of the women’s basketball season, it is still hard to tell exactly where they stand and just how good this team could be. Due to injuries and other extenuating circumstances, the Mounties kicked off the 2016-17 campaign with only seven active players.

Third-year starter Erin Steeves feels the small roster certainly affected the team early in the season. “At this level of basketball the pace is high, and at times we struggled keeping players fresh. Starting the season with only seven players means that multiple teammates are playing 30-plus minutes in each game, which takes a toll on everyone,” she said.

The toll on the short bench showed, as they often found themselves losing close games or blowing leads in the fourth quarter. Despite the adversity, the Mounties head into the new year with a 4-4 record, good enough for fourth place in the league standings.

Third-year Erin Steeves sees the team coming into its own with playoffs closing in. Paul Lynch/submitted

The team’s season found new life with key additions to round out the roster. Katie Horseman, Lauren MacEachern and Emma Snowdon all joined the team mid-season. These new members, along with dual-sport athlete Kate Ollerhead rejoining the team and rookie Karly Buckingham returning from injury, gave the Mounties the depth to compete with every team in the conference.

“[They] have all been great assets to our team in the short time they’ve been here,” Steeves said. “Finally having a team of 12 has improved our intensity in practice, contributing to our success in games.”

With the roster now complete, the Mounties hope to climb the standings in 2017 with eyes on an appearance at the CCAA National Championship in Edmonton. “My expectation and the whole team’s expectation is to win our conference championship this year. Everyone seems to be on the same page. We want to win,” Steeves said.

The men’s team has had no such trouble with depth, as it has been a balanced, full-team effort that has driven the Mounties to an 8-2 record and third place overall in the ACAA standings. The Mounties’ only two losses of the season came from the nationally top-ranked Holland Hurricanes.

Rookie sensation Thomas LeGallais has led the charge for the Mounties this season. LeGallais, a 6’1 guard from Cornwall, Ont., currently sits third in the league in points per game, with an average of 18.2.

“I think the biggest part is having a coaching staff and teammates who believe and have confidence in me,” LeGallais said. “It makes it easier to be confident in myself and just go out and play how I know I can, without having to worry about making mistakes.”

The balance of rookie and veteran talent has made for an exciting, up-tempo and gritty brand of basketball, one that LeGallais believes can take the team to high places.

“Settling for making it to nationals or winning a game or two is just not enough of a standard for our team,” LeGallais said. “I believe we can be national champions, I really don’t see why not. [I’m] not saying it would be easy, but expecting anything less just isn’t an option in my eyes.”

In order to qualify for nationals, the Mounties will need a top-two finish in the ACAA championship tournament that will be held at Mt. A this March.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have high expectations and the required skill to meet them. The Mounties continue on their road to nationals this weekend as they take on the UKC Blue Devils and the MSVU Mystics with back-to-back games in Halifax.

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