Armed with depth and an up tempo style, the uOttawa Gee-Gees look as poised as ever to make a run in the OUA. But injuries, their biggest downfall from last season, are hampering them already. It could sabotage their season again this year but if they’re able to get healthy, the garnet and grey will be a dangerous team.
Ottawa opens the 2014 - 2015 campaign at home in Montpetit Hall this weekend against the CIS no. 6 ranked McMaster Marauders and Brock Badgers then hit the road for four straight games before finishing up the first half of the season at home against Ryerson and Toronto on the last weekend of November.
“I think the home opener will be a really good test for us because we’re not expecting a lot of players back yet,” says head coach Andy Sparks, now in his eigth season at the helm for the Gee-Gees. “McMaster and Brock are both ranked ahead of us right now so it’s going to be a big weekend. We don’t have to look too far down the schedule for a couple of good games.”
Looking ahead, the first game back from the December break is their cross-town rival Carleton Ravens, the team that knocked the Gee-Gees out of the playoffs last season. That’s the first of a stretch of five in a row at home before a six game road swing. Ottawa will conclude the regular season at home February 20 and 21 against Nipissing and Laurentian.
After the Nipissing Lakers joined the OUA, new divisions were created and realigned. The Gee-Gees will now complete in the North division with Carleton, Laurentian, and Nipissing.
The Gee-Gees are looking to improve upon a 2013-14 campaign that got off to a good start, cracking the CIS Top Ten, but saw them falter down the stretch largely due to inconsistency and relentless injuries.
“We can play with a lot of tempo,” adds Sparks. “We’ve shown that in the preseason. Our scoring should be better. I think our shooting is much better than last year. We’re also excited because we’ve added a lot new support staff to the program as well so if we can get healthy I think it can be a really good year.”
Ottawa finished with a 4-3 preseason record losing to no. 4 McGill, no. 8 Queen’s, and Cape Breton, while beating UPEI, Bishop’s, and UQAM twice with an average losing margin of just six points.
“We have nine players back from last year so we have enough of a returning nucleus. We’ve added some quality players. Five of the new recruits will be in our top 12. So it means we’re increasing our level of play.”
Looking back to last season’s production on the court, the team finished with 36.5 per cent shooting, 25 per cent from beyond the arc. Controlling the ball is a priority for any team. The Gee-Gees were the eighth best rebounding team in the country, averaging 42.3 per game and ended up with an even turnover differential of 17. Their offence put up 63 points per game while their defensive game was strong allowing 56 points per game, 10th best in the nation.
Sparks says their chemistry hasn’t been able to fully develop in the preseason with so many players in and out of the lineup, but he thinks that will come. Despite that, they’ve certainly retained and added enough of a core leadership group to build a contender around.
Notable additions include graduate students Jen Stoqua and Krista van Slingerland who enter the fold with talent and experience. Two more players join through CEGEP ready to play after two years of high level basketball.
Returners include guards Julia Soriano (who played the most minutes of anyone last season), Stephanie MacDonald (last season’s team scoring leader), Kellie Ring (who dressed for just two games last season due to injury), Sarah Besselink, Kellie Forand, and Sophie Bruyere, as well as forwards Katherine Lemoine, Catherine Traer, and Akpene Kwamie.
The season will tipoff at 6 p.m. Friday at Montpetit Hall against McMaster and be followed Saturday with another 6 p.m. matchup with Brock.
All Gee-Gees games this season, both home and away, will be broadcast on OUA.tv. Fans are encouraged to buy tickets in advance online for home games.