The Laurentian Voyageurs women's basketball team are not out of the woods yet, in terms of securing a playoff berth, but they are feeling a lot better than they were just two weeks ago.
After closing the first half of their schedule against the OUA West with a record of 3-7, the Voyageurs were sitting tied with the University of Toronto Blues for sixth place in the East, the last of the playoff spots up for grabs.
Taking advantage of a short homestand to start 2019, the Laurentian ladies have split their first four games, knocking off a pair of teams that are above them in the standings. Playing the exact same opponents as L.U., Toronto has yet to post another win, giving coach Jason Hurley and company a four point edge in the race for post-season play.
Furthermore, they are also now within striking distance of the York Lions (6-8), the adversary that the Voyageurs beat 64-46 at home last weekend. The confidence of that win seemingly carried over as Laurentian handed the Carleton Ravens only their third loss of the year, holding on for a 69-66 victory at the Ben Avery Gym on Friday.
The Voyageurs got off to a very quick start against the Ravens, leading 19-10 after the opening ten minutes of play and 36-26 at the half. As one might have expected, a Carleton pushback came quick and hard to start the third, the visitors narrowing the gap to 54-52 with one quarter remaining.
With the lead teetering back and forth, the homeside eventually prevailed, recording a huge 69-66 victory as sophomore Bailey Tabin lit it up for a season high 23 points to pace the Voyageurs.
Mackenzie Robinson added 17 points, with Andrea Zulich chipping in with 11 as Laurentian bested Carleton in all three key shooting percentages (42.9% to 30.0% from the field; 36.8% to 22.2% from beyond the arc; 82.4% to 55.6% from the free throw line).
Nicole Gilmore countered with 24 points in a losing cause for the Ravens, with Madison Reid and Alyssa Cerino adding 12 and 11 points respectively. An 86-61 loss to the first place Ottawa Gee Gees (12-2) the next evening would not diminish the accomplishment of defeating a team that entered play last weekend ranked seventh in the country.
Bailey Tabin (21) and Andrea Zulich (15) were again at the forefront against Ottawa, who jumped all over the Voyageurs in the second quarter, expanding a slim 17-15 lead after ten minutes to a nearly insurmountable gap of 48-20 by the half.
Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu came off the bench to score a game high 23 points for the Gee Gees, with starters Angela Ribarich (18) and Amélie Hachey (17) also hitting double digits.
While the win over Carleton may have raised some eyebrows for casual followers of OUA women's basketball, coach Hurley felt strongly that this kind of result was possible, given the talent and experience on hand, without having to alter the game plan substantially.
"I'm not sure we did anything drastically differently," he said on Monday. "We did win the last game of the first semester against Western, pretty convincingly (76-59), and we played Windsor pretty tight."
"They (the girls) did have a month or so to think about the fact that if we do what we are being asked to do, we stand a chance," Hurley added. "We moved the basketball. We're small and we're supposed to be fast. If we move the ball, we're not bad."
Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the win over the Ravens came while starting point guard Kayla Deschatelets remained sidelined with an injury incurred in the victory, one week earlier, over York.
Though the most notable statistical difference, in the absence of Deschatelets, was the increased offensive output from Bailey Tabin, Hurley suggested that this is more the result of a gradual recognition of the role that the Saskatchewan native must play within the Laurentian attack.
"It's really a bi-product of Bailey knowing that she has to be a presence all year, that she is not just there to run up and down and get defensive rebounds so that our guards can jack threes," said Hurley. "If we're going to be any good, she has to be one of the main reasons why we are any good."
The Voyageurs will look to make it no worse than three straight splits this weekend on the road, in tough on Friday against the Ryerson Rams (12-2) before tipping-off in the circled game against Toronto (3-11) Saturday night at the Goldring Centre.