So far this year, hunting season has been good to the University of Regina’s Cougars.
Playoff appearances for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, along with a bevy of individual medals and accomplishments for the U of R’s wrestling and track stars, has meant that the 2012-13 season likely won’t be forgotten soon.
But the biggest kill so far came on March 2 when the Cougars women’s basketball team defeated the Calgary Dinos to secure just the second Canada West championship in program history.
“It feels great,” said fifth-year forward Lindsay Ledingham. “Obviously we’ve been so close to winning that championship game before but we’ve never come out on top, so to finally get the win and get that banner it feels great.”
But winning Canada West doesn’t mean the Cougars are ready to retract their claws.
With the win, all sights are now set on a CIS championship.
This weekend, eight of the country’s top women’s basketball squads will converge on Regina to compete for the right to be called Canada’s best team.
The gold-medal game will be broadcast nationwide on The Score, bringing national recognition to the U of R.
“It’s a good way to demonstrate the quality of our school, the quality of the building and that kind of thing,” said Craig Chamberlin, dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, adding that hosting the event will likely bring in upward of $100,000 in revenue for the school’s athletic programs.
The recognition doesn’t hurt the school’s recruitment either, Chamberlin said.
“If you look at our women’s team, of course the core is here in Regina. We’ve been able to keep really good players from Regina here, but we’ve added those pieces from across the country and internationally,” he said. “Without that kind of exposure, without the sense that it’s a good program, you wouldn’t get that.”
With all eyes on Regina, Chamberlin is hoping for an outpouring of Cougar pride at this weekend’s tournament.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I hope we get a lot of students out,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of students talking to us about it so I know there’s interest – dressing up, being a little crazy, wouldn’t mind seeing that,” he added with a laugh.
But while the U of R’s student body is gearing up for a party, the women’s basketball team has been hard at work preparing for their biggest test yet.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I hope we get a lot of students out. We’ve got a lot of students talking to us about it so I know there’s interest – dressing up, being a little crazy, wouldn’t mind seeing that.” – Craig Chamberlin
“Right now we’re kind of just focusing on our offense and fixing some things on defence, because we’re not really too sure who we’re going to match up against first,” Ledingham said last week. “And next week it will be more scout dependant, depending on who we play.”
The quarterfinal matchups for the tournament were announced late Sunday night, and the No. 3 seeded Cougars will square off against McGill University, the No. 6 seed at the championships, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
The winner of that game will then play on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the winner of Saint Mary’s vs. Fraser Valley, while the loser will head to the consolation game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
And, while opponent scouting is a big part of the Cougars’ game plan, the key to victory, as it has been all year, is good old-fashioned hard work.
“From preseason workouts to practice, it’s one of the longest seasons,” said second-year guard Kehlsie Crone. “Your body is definitely breaking down here at the end, including mine … It’s hard work, but it’s what we love to do.”
With several Cougars graduating this year, the team has one more source of motivation to add to an already lengthy list.
“Part of you does really want to win for them, because it’s the last time that they get to put on that Cougars jersey,” Crone said. “For how hard they’ve worked for the past five years … it just pushes you to that extra level.”
One of those graduating players, fifth-year Brittany Read, said she’s looking forward to showing Regina what the Cougars are really made of.
“You kind of get nervous because there’s going to be so many people here to watch you, but I feel like that’s also a driving factor,” Read said. “And for lots of us it’s our last time ever playing, so it’s going to be a huge motivational factor.”
And what would it mean to Read to be able to cap her Cougars career with a national championship on home turf?
“It’s something that people can only dream of,” Read said. “To go out on a win would be absolutely fantastic.”
CIS championship quarterfinals start Friday, March 15 at 1 p.m. when Windsor Vs. Ottawa kicks off the tournament.
Bring your voice, bring your friends and bring your Cougar pride.
It’s about to get loud.
Friday, March 15
1:00 pm: Quarterfinal #1 – Windsor (1) vs. Ottawa (8)
3:00 pm: Quarterfinal #2 – Carleton (4) vs. Calgary (5)
6:30 pm: Quarterfinal #3 – Regina (3) vs. McGill (6) – Access7
8:30 pm: Quarterfinal #4 – Saint Mary's (2) vs. Fraser Valley (7)
Saturday, March 16
1:00 pm: Consolation #1 (L1 vs. L2)
3:00 pm: Consolation #2 (L3 vs. L4)
5:00 pm: Semifinal #1 (W1 vs. W2) – Access7 (tape delay to 9 p.m.)
7:00 pm: Semifinal #2 (W3 vs. W4) – Access7 (live)
Sunday, March 17
11:00 am: Consolation Final
1:00 pm: Bronze Medal Game
4:00 pm: Championship Final (The Score)
Photo by Arthur Ward