Zalesiak “leads by example”

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Cougars women’s basketball point guard helps team jump out to 6-0 record

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

When she learned that Brittany Read would miss the entire season, Joanna Zalesiak knew she would be looked upon to produce for the University of Regina Cougars women's basketball team.

“Some people had to step up, and I guess I was one of them,” said the third-year starting point guard. “I knew I needed to add some more points, rebounds, and steals.”

So far, Zalesiak has performed wonderfully for the Cougars. She leads the team with 16.7 points per game and nearly five assists per game. In the CIS, she is second in apg and is in the top 20 when it comes to ppg. All the while, Zalesiak has helped Regina jump out to a perfect 6-0 record. They are second in the Canada West, trailing only the 8-0 University of Victoria Vikes. Cougars head coach Dave Taylor is pleased, but certainly not surprised by Zalesiak’s individual success.

“I wouldn't say she's stepped up for us this season, because she’s just continued playing well,” Taylor noted. “We knew she was going to be a scorer for us, that’s not a big surprise.”

The play of Zalesiak has made the loss of Read a little easier to stomach for the Cougars. Read, an all-star post, averaged 14.4 ppg and grabbed 9.8 rebounds per game in 2009-10. Stats aside, Read was a dominating presence for Regina under the net and was a leader to the team. While Zalesiak was not expected to replace Read’s productivity under the net, there were obviously expectations that she would step into the leadership role this season.

“I think you can say that,” noted the Polish product. “We have only one other fifth-year player on the team (Gabrielle Gheyssen), so I’m one of the people that needed to step into that role.”

“She leads by example,” added Taylor. “Anytime your best player plays as hard as she does she’s always going to be a leader.”

With Read gone, Taylor notes it has been more of a group effort under the net for the Cougars. Lindsay Ledingham (10.8 ppg, 6 rpg), Anne Mercer (7 ppg. 8.5 rpg), Vanessa Wesolowski (6.7 ppg, 4 rpg), and Megan Chamberlin (6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) have been some of the posts to step up for Regina this season. Zalesiak appreciates their efforts.

“We have some great players,” offered Zalesiak, a faculty of kinesiology and health studies student. “They are not all old players, but they are experienced.”

However, success on offence has a lot to do with how well the point guard performs. As a point guard, Zalesiak is expected to orchestrate the offence. This naturally puts her into a leadership role on the court. Zalesiak does not feel pressure, however.

“I enjoy playing point guard a lot,” Zalesiak explained. “This is only my second year playing point guard. It is fun to try and create offence.”

Clearly, the loss of Read has not been as detrimental to the Cougars as critics or other teams in the CIS would have thought. More importantly for Regina, the loss has not stopped them from setting the bar high this season.

“Our goals for this season haven’t changed,” Zalesiak insisted. “[The loss of Read] boosted our confidence a little bit, because now that we don’t have Brittany, all the teams think that we can’t do good and we want to prove them wrong and do well anyways.”

Even though Read is out, she has still made her presence felt.

“Brittany is there all the time at practice,” Taylor explained. “She helps the young posts. She talks to them, helping them through the different plays. During games, we’ll often send a player over to talk to Brittany because Brittany knows exactly what’s going on and what should go on.”

For results from the Cougars games last weekend against Trinity Western, see U of R sports roundup.

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