Every year there is one team that is at the absolute top. A team clearly better than everyone else. A team that should undoubtedly win a national championship.
This year, it’s the University of Regina women’s basketball team.
Of course, there is always a danger of being the top dog. Most people are going to root against you and pull for the underdog to come along and de-thrown – and more importantly – embarrass the upper class team.
Last week, the visiting Winnipeg Wesmen were hoping to be that underdog during the Canada West quarterfinals, but they didn’t have a chance. Regina went on to sweep the Wesmen in consecutive games, first posting a 93-52 victory on Friday night and then following up that performance by an 84-70 victory on Saturday.
In many ways, the Cougars have been in this position before; they may not have had the perfect record, but getting past the quarterfinals and making a run for a national championship is something that is old news for many of the players.
For Jennilea Coppola, a second-year post with the Cougars, having been here before makes it much easier the second time around.
“It’s definitely better to know what to expect,” she said. “Knowing how everything works and just being adjusted to the level of play makes a big difference.”
Although they may be used to the game, the Cougars have sometimes been accused of getting off to a slow start in some of their previous games this season, something that Coppola was slightly concerned about after the weekend was over.
“I think we got off to a bit of a slow start,” she said “But, we had our moments, we picked it up, and did what we needed to do.”
Lindsay Ledingham and Joanna Zalesiak put up big numbers in front of their hometown crowd, finishing the weekend off with 34 and 27 points, respectively.
Having the hometown crowd behind them proved to be crucial in the victory, and that is one advantage that the Cougars will gladly take.
“It’s extremely important,” Coppola said. “Just knowing your gym and having your fans there cheering you on really means a lot and helps a lot.”
With the series win, the Cougars are now one step closer to their goal of being undefeated national champions. But the pressure that often mounts during an undefeated season doesn’t seem to be fazing the players.
“I wouldn’t say that there is extra pressure,” Coppola said. “I think that there is just more focus on what we have to do. More focus, and realizing that the games that you have already played are no longer valid.”
The Centre of Kinesiology, Health and Sport will play host to the Canada West Final Four on March 2-3, This will be the last time that fans will have the chance to see this national calibre team at home. Regina will take the court for the first time on Friday at 7:00 p.m. against Fraser Valley.