The Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s basketball team opens the new year with a first-place matchup against the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds at the Field House.
UNB (5-1) and MUN (4-2), which face each other six o’clock tonight and 11 a.m. Sunday, both have 14 points atop the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) standings. So do the Cape Breton University Capers (5-2).
But if the Lady Hawks are going to take a run at an AUS title this year, they’ll have to do it without last season’s top scorer, Vicki Thistle, who won’t finish out her career at MUN.
Thistle injured her knee playing soccer during the summer and did not start the season. MUN coach Doug Partridge says Thistle understood Memorial didn’t offer the masters program she hopes to pursue, “and since her knee is still not 100 percent, she will not return and (will) maintain her one year of eligibility.”
That’s good news for opposing teams.
“Vicki was awesome, for sure,” said UNB coach Jeff Speedy. “She would start on every team in the CIS.”
Speedy is anticipating a pair of tough games against the Sea-Hawks in a gym he says is a, “very, very tough place” to register a win.
“But the AUS league is just flat out getting better,” he said, thanks in part to, “young coaches working hard and recruiting well.”
The Lady Hawks are coming off a fourth-place finish at the Concordia University holiday tournament in Montreal.
MUN played the tourney without injured Brittany Dalton, the team’s second-leading scorer (15.4 points-per-game), who was scheduled to get her knee checked before the weekend.
“Overall, I was pleased, considering Dalton did not play a minute, so we were shorthanded,” said Partridge. “Grace (Fishbein) was a tournament all-star and had a huge 24-point,
11-rebound game against Concordia.
“We were very solid against Manitoba, playing great defence and moving the ball well.”
“We played a very strong game against a very good Concordia team that won the tournament. Then played tired for the first half of the Queen’s (bronze medal) game. We fell down by 26 and then woke up and got the score all the way to within eight points with four minutes left, but we couldn't make the big play down the stretch to totally turn it around,.”
Partridge said players who stood out besides Fishbein, who leads the Sea-Hawks in scoring with 16.8 ppg., were Ally Forsey and Jen Parsons, who played well in the post, and Sam Kavanagh, Emily Jameson and Kim Devison, who provided solid defence and ball handling.
He noted Robyn O'Rielly returned from a broken finger and averaged 20 minutes a game in the tourney. He said she shot the ball well from three-point line and had 12 points in the loss to Queen’s.