Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Huskies women’s hoopsters are set for a bright future

The Huskies pose for a team photo with their U Sports national silver medals.
    You almost forget how young the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team actually is, because they play so well.
    On Sunday, the Huskies appeared in the championship game at the U Sports national championship tournament in Regina falling 69-48 to the top seeded Carleton University Ravens. The Ravens had a 29-0 record between the regular season and playoffs and a 38-2 overall record for the 2017-18 campaign when exhibition matches were added in.
    It was obvious the Huskies fell to a formidable foe.
    The Huskies had a successful season posting a 25-7 overall record. They finished second overall in the Canada West regular season registering a 17-3 mark.
Summer Masikewich (#11) has become a star post for the Huskies.
    In the Canada West playoffs, they won two elimination contests and made it to the conference championship game falling to the host University of Regina Cougars 75-55 on March 2.
    At the U Sports championship tournament, the Huskies turned the tables on the Cougars prevailing in a semifinal encounter 74-71 on Saturday.
    There shouldn’t be any disappointments for the Huskies this season. It is obvious to point out that if you reverse the results of just two games - the Canada West Conference title game and the U Sports national championship game - the Huskies would be feeling over the moon about the 2017-18 campaign.
    When you step back and look at the big picture, it is amazing to see what the Huskies accomplished this season.
    Back in 2016, the Huskies won the title game at the U Sports national championship tournament held in Fredericton, N.B., over the Ryerson University Rams by a score of 85-71. Following that game, the Huskies graduated fourth players in their fifth-years of eligibility in Laura Dally, Dalyce Emmerson, Kelsey Trulsrud and Taya Keujer.
Guard Sabine Dukate has piled up the points for the Huskies.
    Dally and Emmerson go down as two of the greatest to ever play for the Huskies.
    Fourth-year guard Desarae Hogberg also left the team to focus on life after basketball following that U Sports title win. All five of those players provided the heart of the Huskies team that also claimed the Canada West title in 2015-16.
    It was expected the Huskies would go through a reloading stage and have a drop off.
    In the two seasons since that national title win, the Huskies won a Canada West title in 2017, appeared in the conference final this past season, and made two trips to nationals winning a silver medal on Sunday.
    The Huskies have made 10 trips to nationals over the last 11 years. Their status as a powerhouse is cemented.
Point guard Libby Epoch, right, has become the Huskies floor general.
    They graduated fifth-year veterans in guard Madeline Humbert and forward Megan Lindquist but are loaded with stars who were in their first and second years of eligibility.
    Two of those stars played with significant injuries at nationals in Regina. Third-year shooting guard Sabine Dukate, who is the only remaining starter from the 2016 U Sports national championship winning team, will need shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but she was still a threat to score at all times.
    In the semifinal win over the Cougars, she hit 5-of-11 shots from three-point range to lead the Huskies with 20 points.
    Sophomore point guard Libby Epoch, who stands 5-foot-7, was hampered by a bad ankle, but she still played 114 out of the 120 minutes of total court time the Huskies saw at nationals. She had eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in the loss to the Ravens.
Guard Megan Ahlstrom has been key at both ends of the floor.
    When you talk to Epoch, you wouldn’t have guessed she is just 19-years-old, because she speaks and acts with a maturity well beyond her years. The Moose Jaw, Sask., product, who has been a member of Canada’s national team system, has already become one of the key public faces in representing the entire Huskie Athletics program. She is the person you want representing your entire athletics program.
    Sophomore post Summer Masikewich, who has also been part of Canada’s national team program, has done a remarkable job is being a star successor to Emmerson.
    Third-year guard Megan Ahlstrom has been a sound contributor at both ends of the floor.
    Sophomore guard Kelsey Lalor has a bunch of untapped potential and rookie forward Kyla Shand improved drastically as the campaign progressed joining the Huskies from Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School.
Guard Kelsey Lalor will play a bigger role for the Huskies in the future.
    The Huskies played well beyond their years thank to the work of their coaching staff led by head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who is one of the best you will find in any sport in Canada.
    The only time youth caught up to the Huskies was against the Ravens. Leading 25-24 at halftime, the Huskies struggled in the second half rushing shots when the composed Ravens were pulling away.
    The Ravens started three fifth-year and two fourth-year players and substituted in another fifth-year player from the bench. Those six veterans accounted for 50 of the Ravens 69 points, and they stayed steady when the waves were rough in the early going for their team.
    With that said, the Huskies are still playing in conference and national championship games as a young team.
The Huskies are poised to be a U Sports powerhouse for some time to come.
    You know their players are going to put in the work to be that much better in the off-season, and Thomaidis and her staff have to be excited to see what everyone will look like when they all return to school in late August.
    That alone has to get you excited for the upcoming season.

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