OTTAWA — The Carleton Ravens have executed quite the turnaround over the last 10 years, emerging as one of the more competitive teams in the OUA North Division.
Back in the 2007-08 season, the Ravens finished fifth in the OUA with a record of 8-14. That marked the fifth straight year that they had finished fifth or worse in the conference. Since then, however, it’s been a completely different story.
The very next season, the Ravens flipped their record, finishing 14-8 to finish third in the league. That was a sign of things to come for the Ravens, as they have emerged as one of the top contenders in the OUA North Division since then. Having finished third or better in the division each year since, it was only a matter of time before the Ravens broke through on the national scale.
Their breakout season came in 2016-17, when they lost just once over the course of the year. Unfortunately, that loss came in the semi-finals of the 2017 U Sports National Championships to the McGill Martlets. The Ravens were the top seed in the event, but were unable to secure their first national crown.
Fast forward to the 2017-18 season, and the Ravens were once again knocking on the door for a national championship. This time, they weren’t going to let the opportunity slip away.
For the second year in a row, the Ravens went undefeated in the regular season and in the OUA playoffs. They landed the top seed once more in the Final 8 tournament, and after a 10-point win over the Calgary Dinos in the quarter-finals, the Ravens and Martlets met up in the semi-finals once again.
The Ravens were hoping for a different result than the year before, and while the game would come down to the wire, the Ravens got their revenge and punched their ticket to the national title game. From there, Carleton would dispose of the Saskatchewan Huskies in convincing fashion to complete their perfect season and secure their first-ever national championship.
Much like the men’s program, the women’s team used a balanced offensive attack all season long to guide them to the national title. Three different players averaged double-digit points per game, while a total of seven players posted at least 6.6 points per contest.
Two of the three players who averaged double-digit points per game last season, Heather Lindsay and Catherine Traer, graduated after the year was over. That leaves over 21 points per game of production that needs to be replaced in 2018-19.
Lindsay led the team in scoring a season ago, averaging 11.0 points per game on 54.7% shooting from the floor. She started in all 23 conference games for the year, but averaged just over 21 minutes of floor time per night out. Standing at 6’3”, the native of Ottawa brought size to the front court rotation for the Ravens.
She also led the team with 10.0 rebounds per contest, finishing her career with a double-double average. Lindsay will begin her professional career in Germany this season with BBZ Opladen, located near Cologne.
The loss of Traer leaves another hole in the front court for the Ravens heading into the 2018-19 season. The 6’1” forward from Chelsea, Quebec averaged 10.4 points per contest as a fifth-year player, which was good for the third-highest mark on the team. While she didn’t put up the rebounding numbers that Lindsay posted, Traer did average 2.6 assists per game, compared to 1.6 turnovers.
Replacing the production lost via the graduating class will come with time. However, losing the amount of veteran experience that the Ravens did after 2017-18 will be tough to replace.
While the 2018-19 roster has yet to be finalized for the Ravens, one can speculate as to who Carleton will lean on this season after the losses of key contributors.
Head coach Taffe Charles will turn to the likes of fifth-year forward Elizabeth Leblanc, fourth-year forward Alyssa Cerino, as well as fourth-year guard Alexandra Trivieri to shoulder the offense on the Ravens’ quest to defend their national title. All three will be looked upon to provide veteran leadership for the newcomers to the roster, as well as become key contributors on both ends of the court.
Leblanc is the top returning scorer back from last year’s team, having averaged 10.8 points per game on 44.8% shooting. She also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Her 1.1 blocks per game last season were good for the third-highest mark behind both Traer and Lindsay. Leblanc will be the focal point of the offense this season as the veteran leader, but she has the ability to get her teammates involved for easier looks at the basket.
Both stat lines for Cerino and Trivieri from last season won’t blow you away, but there is a level of optimism surrounding the pair. Both will take on expanded roles with the team this season, and that will lead to significant increases in production as the season progresses.
It’s been over 10 years since the Ravens finished below third in league play, and there are no signs that point to that streak stopping this season. It will be interesting to see how the team handles the pressure of being the reigning national champions at the beginning of the season. However, you can bet that coach Charles and his staff will have the women ready for whatever the rest of the OUA has for them.
The Ravens could very well be home to both the men’s and women’s national champions when the 2018-19 season comes to a close.
– T. Bennett