Lady Hawks struggle to stay in playoff hunt
Memorial Sea-Hawks women's basketball team isn't the force it once was in the Atlantic University Sport conference. That's painfully clear this season.
While the team is competitive, the days when it dominated the conference look to be over.
The days of claiming six AUS crowns in nine years, winning scoring titles and producing a handful of individual first and second-team all-stars and rookie awards along the way also seems like a long, long time ago.
These days, the Lady Hawks have trouble making it out of the quarter-finals and the pipeline of dominant, impact players has dwindled to a trickle.
The Field House, once Death Valley for visiting teams, is now a place where the opposition feels comfortable most of the time.
If there's any consolation, MUN's long-time rival, the Cape Breton Capers, are going down the tubes as well.
The Lady Hawks' downward trend is rather obvious.
Memorial finished 17-3 in the 2007-2008 regular season. The following season, MUN finished 16-4.
In 2009-10, the Sea-Hawks fell to 13-7 and then to 12-8 in 2010-11. Last year, the Lady Hawks finished with a 10-10 mark, just good enough for fourth place, four points ahead of St. Francis Xavier.
The team's future is muddy at best with the impending loss of fifth-year veterans Ally Forsey, Grace Fishbein - the team's top two scorers - along with Kim Devison.
Next season aside, the Sea-Hawks are fighting for their playoff lives right now.
Heading into weekend games against St. Francis in Antigonish, N.S., the Lady Hawks are 5-7 and 10 points behind fourth-place Acadia Axewomen.
"It's going to be a battle 'til the end of the year and we've just got to keep fighting," said coach Doug Partridge, who joked that the team has been in a playoff battle since they started the season 1-5.
The Sea-Hawks split a pair of games against the Dalhousie Tigers this past weekend at the Field House and Partridge said that wasn't a bad outcome considering the injuries and illnesses the team has had this season.
"We could have played better, but it would have been asking a lot from of us to win both games considering where we are physically."
Partridge said the Sea-Hawks are looking for at least a split of the two, four-point games against St. Francis this weekend in Antigonish, N.S.
The MUN coach didn't hesitate to sit his starters Sunday as the team fell to the Tigers after an opening series win.
"Our bench was awful Saturday, but I thought our bench out-performed our starters Sunday," he said.
As far as the Sea-Hawks' fall from championship contender status, Partridge said he believes the team has been, "a little slow to adapt to the jump in athletic level of the women's game in the last few years. But we are starting to catch up.
"The other problem," he said, "is the normal progression is one year to get used to everything, one year to integrate what you have learned and in your third year you are ready to go all out.
"Several players have not met that expectation and then the series of injuries and illnesses have interrupted others," he explained.
"It's by far the most snakebitten recruiting class we have had at MUN," said Partridge, adding, "and it has made it hard to build to the place myself or the players would like to be.
"But there is still some time this season to see what we can do."
In the meantime, to pick up the pace at Wednesday night's practice, the Lady Hawks worked out with a pool of players from the Newfoundland midget boys' team. Partridge said he thought it would also help for his players to see a different look during the five-on-five scrimmages.
Team GP W L PTS
Saint Mary's 11 11 0 30
Dalhousie 11 8 3 24
St. Francis Xavier 11 6 5 22
Acadia 10 8 2 22
Memorial 12 5 7 12
Cape Breton 12 3 9 6
UPEI 11 2 9 6
UNB 10 1 9 2
Note: Some games are worth 4 pts.