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St. Bon's product was ACAA women's basketball player of the year
Maria Carroll came to Mount Saint Vincent University to study public relations. It wasn’t her intention to play for the school’s basketball team.
Not that she couldn’t handle it. For two years, she was the starting point guard on the boys’ high school hoops team at St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s.
“I was bit under-sized,” Carroll, the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball player of the year, said with a laugh.
“I definitely got a little bit tougher playing with the boys. I also learned what I can and can’t do on the floor. I didn’t want to get injured against them so I learned to play a smarter game. Guys have such long arms, it was definitely harder to make passes in the beginning. But it challenged me and made me a better player.”
When Mystics head coach Mark Forward got wind of a Carroll’s basketball background, he tried to coax her to join the Mystics. She waited until August of her freshman season before finally committing.
The Mount was competitive during her first four seasons but ultimately came up short in the ACAA championship.
But this past season — her fifth with MSVU — was magical for the Mystics. They went undefeated in 23 games, including a 76-41 victory over the St. Thomas Tommies in the conference final. It was the first ACAA title for Carroll, who was named tournament MVP.
Remarkable for a team that lost five players from last season, including All-Canadian Kate Gallant, who came back this season as an assistant to Forward, the ACAA coach of the year.
“We didn’t know how the season would go after losing so many good players from last year who were a big part of our team,” Carroll said.
“During our first (exhibition) game of the season, after our warm-up, the starters usually sit down on the bench before the game starts. I went to sit down and no one else joined me. I was like ‘oh my god, all of our starters are gone.’
“But everyone stepped up and filled those roles. It seemed like every practice, every game we kept getting better and better. It’s a nice feeling that we have built upon that. We have an awesome group of girls and it’s been fun to watch this team grow.”
Carroll, who graduated last spring with a bachelor of public relations degree, wasn’t planning on returning for a fifth year.
But after MSVU lost to Mount Allison in overtime in the 2018 ACAA final and, as the eighth seed, dropped its opener of last year’s Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship to No. 1 Humber College on a game-winning basket with 0.8 seconds left, Carroll reconsidered.
“I thought last year we were going to win and it would’ve been a nice ending for us. But we didn’t win,” said Carroll, who returned to complete a one-year business certificate.
“I didn’t want to leave a year of eligibility on the table without winning an (ACAA) championship. And I wasn’t coming back to lose again. I did that for a few years. I said, ‘if I’m here, we’re going to do it.’ It became my mission.”
The first step — a conference championship — has been completed.
This week, MSVU will take its unblemished record into the CCAA championship in Sainte-Foy, Que. The Mystics are ranked second for the three-day, eight-team national tournament. They face the host Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy in their opener Thursday evening.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Carroll said. “We’re ranked No. 2 which is the highest ranking the Mount has had since I’ve played on the team. People know we’re coming but maybe we will fly under the radar.”