Women’s basketball heads into break undefeated

The Carleton Ravens women’s basketball team finished the first half of the season with an undefeated 10-0 record and are ranked fourth in the country thanks to a revamped offence and a strong defence.

“I thought we did well,” head coach Taffe Charles said. “We were relatively healthy which was unusual for the first part of the year and maybe, because we’re deep. The minutes are being distributed pretty well.”

The team is first in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and hasn’t lost since falling to the University of Alberta Pandas in exhibition play on Oct. 6.

The team has emphasized being more offensive this season, according to Charles. So far, so good: the Ravens are at the top (or near) in a lot of offensive categories, and are leading the nation in assists with 18 per game.

“It just shows an awareness of moving the ball, the ball’s being moved,” Charles said. “We’re sharing the basketball. We’re trusting in our teammates. We’re aware that our teammates are ready to shoot it or score.”

He said he was also impressed with the lack of turnovers (15.3 per game), something he attributed to a focus on being “dynamic” this year.

“I think the biggest thing offensively is being ready to shoot it before you catch it,” Charles said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we work on.”

Charles pointed out a key to playing “dynamic” is not holding onto the ball and knowing what to do when receiving it.

“If you can prepare before you catch the ball and be ready to shoot it when you do catch it, that actually buys you a little bit more time . . . and it makes decision making a lot easier,” he said.

In order to be more efficient offensively, Charles said there are two other elements the team is focusing on.

“Second thing we’re working on hard is attacking the rim. You know, direct lines to the basket, going north-south instead of east-west,” he said.

“The third thing is making good decisions at the rim, so by finishing outside-in, doing power layups,” he noted. “So giving yourself the best options at the rim, that gives you the opportunity to shoot, pass or attack.”

Fifth-year centre Heather Lindsay echoed Charles’ thoughts: “When you’re catching it ready to shoot or ready to pass, the open look is always there.”

Lindsay currently leads the team in points-per-game (12.6) and rebounds (9.3).

A 2016-17 OUA All-Star along with teammates Elizabeth Leblanc and Catherine Traer, Lindsay credited her coaches’ “immediate feedback” and the team’s guards for her success.

“They’re getting me wide open looks just off of their ability to pass the ball really well,” she said.

As for the offence’s setup, Lindsay noted it involves players having options and keeping an element of randomness.

“A lot of offensive systems are a set to begin with and then it’s a read and react,” Lindsay said. “One thing we always try to focus on is who has the mismatch or who’s going to create an advantage situation. It’s all about reading who has the best matchup.”

The team’s height and versatility helps, according to her.

“We have a lot of different threats that other teams don’t have so they struggle to match up with us,” she said.

The defence is as strong as last year—the Ravens lead U Sports in points-allowed-per-game (46.4) and opponent field goal percentage (27.9). Lindsay said that success comes from work and detail.

“For us, our defence is way more complicated than our offence,” she said. “For some teams, defence is a break for them but for us, our [relative] break is on offence. We’re working as hard as we can on defence to take away any easy opportunities.”

It includes a pressing defence which has forced 18.5 turnovers per game, including 9.6 steals. Lindsay said it’s about communication with a focus on constantly pressuring opposing points guards full court.

“It’s from [our guards] just working their butts off to make sure the point guard is uncomfortable,” she noted. “When the point guard’s uncomfortable, it takes them out of a lot of what they’re trying to do.”

Charles pointed to intense two-hour practices as a source of the team’s mentality.

“We try and mimic every practice like a game,” he said. “We make situations harder than a game, to be honest with you, in terms of how long they have to play. Games, I like to think that they are easier because the intensity level’s high during practice so that in games, it’s not a big shock.”

Lindsay said she’s impressed with the high effort and level of competition during practices.

“Every single drill we do in practice is a competition,” she said. “Going into every drill, I can trust that my teammates are also trying to win and we’re running through walls before we’re letting the other team get the ball.”

Charles noted “maximum effort” is continually stressed.

“Understanding that you got to practice hard to achieve that maximum effort all the time,” he explained. “You got to be able to do it when you’re tired. You got to be able to not let your teammates down.”

As for the end goal, Charles said he’s looking ahead to the future while taking every game seriously.

“We’re preparing for the end,” he said. “Every game we play, no matter who we’re playing, is all about: can we play the game we need to play at the end of the year, when it’s a one-and-done situation?”

Lindsay called last year’s U Sports semi-finals loss to McGill University “heartbreaking” and said she realizes the importance of this being her last year at Carleton.

“Now, it’s just like the end is near,” she said of herself and fellow fifth-year players Traer, Stephanie Carr and Jenjen Abella.

“It’s a really weird feeling and we’re working as hard as we can because there’s nothing left after this for a lot of us, and some of us still want to continue with playing basketball but some of us, this is it,” she said.

Photo by Meagan Casalino