Women's Basketball Team
The McMaster women’s basketball team is entering this upcoming season in full force. With key veterans returning, but also with an influx of hungry first-year talent, the ceiling for the squad is high, but the learning curve is steep.
Mac has six first-year players in the lineup, meaning the expectations for this upcoming season are to establish an identity early on and build a winning culture that can carry the program for years to come.
Head coach Theresa Burns believes that a strong work ethic, high levels of fitness, and the amount of depth the team possess will be key to their success as a unit this year.
“We want to push the pace as much as possible but while at the same time maintaining discipline and making smart basketball decisions. We give up a bit of size, but what we lack in size we make up for with endurance and depth,” said Burns.
With the graduation of star centre Hailey Milligan, who will be representing McMaster overseas professionally, guard Danielle Boiago will be expected to maintain her excellent play from last season and lead this team as the expected number one option on offense.
Boiago, a former OUA West Rookie of the Year and third-year starting guard, averaged 16 points while chipping in four rebounds and two assists per game last season.
Burns believes that this class of recruits is one of the strongest McMaster has had in recent years. Throughout the pre-season, the team has shown considerable signs of cohesion and chemistry. According to Burns, the team was a bit too predictable in 2013-14.
“The game plan to play us was really simple. It was face-guard Boiago, limit her touches, pack it in on Milligan, force her to kick the ball out to someone else and we just didn’t have the ability to generate enough offence to win games,” explained Burns.
This year, however, the team has diverse scoring options. With six first-year players in the lineup, one might expect a bit of growing pains to begin the season but coach Burns feels confident that these rookies will be able to contribute significantly and will be able to take the scoring load off of the team veterans. Players of note that coach Burns believes are ready to make a big impact this year are Hilary Hanaka, Linnaea Harper and Allyson Schweitzer.
Hanaka, who had originally accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Vermont, but ultimately chose McMaster, is a strong contender for Rookie of the Year, according to coach Burns. Harper is another young addition to this roster that could have a significant impact. Having been named to Canada Basketball’s Junior National Team, Harper looks to bring that experience and passion for the game to this upcoming season. The junior national team won silver at the FIBA Americas tournament and Harper averaged nearly 20 minutes a contest.
When asked who she feels could be the breakout player to watch out for this season, coach Burns said that Allyson Schweitzer is a player to watch out for. Despite an accident that sidelined Schweitzer for a majority of her grade 12 year, coach Burns believes that Schweitzer shows tremendous potential as a strong force in the post.
“Coming off of a less experienced high school background, we thought it would take a little while for her to adjust to the game, but through six preseason games, she has been outstanding,” says Burns. “Seeing her develop so quickly is really exciting for not just this season but for the future as well”.
Top recruit Jelena Mamic will have to wait another year to make her university debut. Mamic last year was sidelined for the entire season by tearing her ACL and has re-torn that same ligament. Burns feels that while this is a major setback, Mamic is committed to the rehabilitation and intends to come back even stronger next year.
“She is one of, if not the most mentally and physically tough players I have ever coached, so if anyone can overcome that hurdle again, it’s her,” says Burns. “We believe that she has the potential to be a starting point guard in this league and can bring so many different things to the team.”
This is the first year since 2008 that McMaster has been ranked in the CIS top ten for women’s basketball, currently ranked number seven. Having fallen out of the top ten the past couple of years and finally being ranked is a confidence boost for the team, but that also comes with added pressure. Coach Burns will not let this team rest on their laurels and forget that their ultimate goal is the national championship.
“It’s something you have to come to practice every night and live up to that billing and prove to everyone and yourself that we are deserving of that ranking,” said Burns.
With such a young, talented team from top to bottom, the future is indeed bright for the McMaster women’s basketball team. With a strong nucleus that will be able to grow and develop with each other, this young group has all the makings to be something special.