WATERLOO, Ontario — The 2017-18 season marked the end of what was a stellar career for Nicole Morrison with the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Morrison graduated from the Golden Hawks as Laurier’s all-time leading scorer. Over her career, she posted 1,394 regular season points. Morrison added 220 points in non-conference play, and another 78 points over 11 career playoff games. In total, that gives her a whopping 1,692 points over her five years with the Golden Hawks.
Last season, Morrison and the Golden Hawks finished with a record of 10-14 against OUA competition during the regular season, finishing sixth in the West Division. Laurier sat at 10-9 heading into the final stretch of the season, but five straight losses to close out the regular season sent the Golden Hawks into the post-season searching for answers.
The Golden Hawks were matched up with the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the First Round of the OUA Playoffs. Laurier dropped the final two games of the regular season to the Thunderwolves, and they were looking for some retribution.
However, retribution was not in the cards. Laurier’s season came to a close with a third straight loss to Lakehead, 74-60.
With the loss came the end of an incredible chapter in Golden Hawks’ history with the graduation of Morrison. It also signals the beginning of a new chapter for Laurier women’s basketball, as new stars will emerge and carve their own legacies across the basketball landscape at Laurier and in the OUA.
Laurier has several key contributors back from last year’s team, so all is not lost heading into the 2018-19 season for head coach Paul Falco and his staff.
Last season, Morrison had arguably her best season to close out her career with the Golden Hawks. The native of Hamilton, Ontario averaged a career-best 19.3 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. For the second year in a row, Morrison was named a Second Team All-Star by the OUA.
Morrison was named the Team MVP for the 2017-18 season, and she received the President’s Award from Laurier to cap off what was a stellar career as a member of the Golden Hawks.
Now, with Morrison having graduated, the Golden Hawks will look to some familiar faces to help shoulder the load on offense in 2018-19.
In 2017-18, guard Jill Condron saw her role expand with the team from her freshman season, and she made positive strides on both ends of the floor. The native of Oakville, ON saw her playing time increase to 23.9 minutes per outing, and she more than doubled her point per game production as a result. Condron averaged 3.1 points per game in 2016-17, and she upped that to 6.6 points per game last season.
Condron also saw her rebounds per game average improve to 5.0, up from 3.5 per game as a first-year player. With another increase in playing expected this season for the 5’11” guard, look for Condron to increase her production on both ends of the floor and become a key contributor for the Golden Hawks moving forwards.
Also returning in the back court is third year guard Rachel Woodburn. The 5’8” guard from Ajax, ON averaged 6.5 points per game last season, up from her average of 4.5 points the season prior. In Laurier’s playoff loss to Lakehead, Woodburn went for 13 points, three assists and three steals. Woodburn has shown flashes of being able to score in bunches and carry the team on offense, and she will be looked upon to take on a bigger role this season, both in terms of production and leadership.
Rounding out the group of key returnees is fellow third year guard Brianna Iannazzo. The product of Thornhill, ON saw her minutes and production dip slightly last season in comparison to the year before, but Iannazzo still averaged 5.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game in 2017-18. Iannazzo has shot at least 75% from the free throw line in each of her first two seasons with the Golden Hawks. She shot 86.4% from the line as a freshman back in 2016-17.
Laurier will need someone to step up and emerge as a threat from three-point range. All of the team’s top shooters from long-range are not on this year’s roster. Forward Celina Elliott was the team’s top shooter from three-point range in terms of percentage last season, as she was 1-of-3 (33.3%) from beyond the arc.
The personnel losses depleted the Golden Hawks’ long range shooting, but there’s an opportunity for someone to step up and become the knock-down shooter that the team needs from distance heading into the season.
Losing a player of Morrison’s caliber is never easy to replace, and it’s something that a team will never be able to completely do. Others need to step up to help fill the void while also carving out their own legacy with the program. Paul Falco has some key returnees that he can lean on for production on the floor, and they can also provide leadership to the newcomers.
Laurier will look to forget their losing streak to end last season and start fresh in 2018-19. As the post-Morrison era begins in Waterloo, there are plenty of opportunities for players to step up and begin to write their own legacies at Laurier.
– T. Bennett