The St. Thomas University Tommies women’s basketball team has another year of development ahead.
But head coach Fred Connors hopes the growth he expects from his young squad over the upcoming campaign will get the Tommies to the post-season, or even allow for a deep playoff run.
“I believe we’ll be a playoff team,” Connors said, as he enters his 15th year as the Tommies’ bench boss.
“We should be good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but how much damage we do when we get there depends on how much we progress in the meantime.”
As long as the Tommies work hard and stay focused, Connors said, they should be competitive in March.
That will be important for a team that placed fifth in the increasingly competitive Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association last year – while decimated by injuries, no less – before falling to the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics in the ACAA quarterfinal.
Connors said last year’s quarterfinal loss is a moot point for the Tommies, who hope to get as far as possible in the playoffs.
“We can’t force our way to winning games in March,” he said.
“We have to prepare as much as we can for when we arrive there, and if it takes us to a playoff spot or the semifinals or nationals, we’ll know wherever we end up then is what we’ve earned along the way.”
After being an ACAA powerhouse in recent years, the Tommies began retooling in the last two seasons.
Connors expects that to continue this year with six rookies and two second-year players in the lineup.
“We’ve been able to get a lot of good minutes from our bench in the pre-season, which is important.”
Connors said it’s hard to use youth to determine how the season will unfold because, in some years, STU has had a more experienced team that has come up short of success.
“In the past, we’ve also had young teams who have gone to national tournaments,” said the coach.
First-year players on this year’s Tommies are Bridget Frazee, Taylor Forsythe, Maddison Owens, Kenzie Janes, Becca MacNeil and Christina Richardson.
Second-year players include Lainy Dow and Katie Corlett, while third-years are Sara Banks and Jayme Hunt.
Carissa McTague and Jessica Patenaude are the two senior players on the STU roster.
Connors couldn’t pinpoint any particular veterans he expects to take on larger roles, as he said everyone will be encouraged to improve.
“We’re asking everybody to buy into the team concept and work hard.”
The Tommies dropped three of their four games on their Quebec exhibition tour earlier this month before winning two of three contests at the recent Ken Gould Invitational Tournament, but Connors said the team showed a lot of growth over that two-week span.
“Hopefully we can keep it going,” he said.
STU faced the Capital City Titans of the upstart New Brunswick Women’s Basketball League on Sunday, Oct. 23 in Fredericton.
The Tommies’ regular season opens Saturday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. in Sackville against the Mount Allison University Mounties.
STU’s first home game goes Saturday, Nov. 5, when the Tommies host the University of Kings College Blue Devils at 6 p.m. at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym.
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