Carleton Ravens Aiming for Second National Title in Three Seasons

Cerino, Alyssa
Alyssa Cerino and the Carleton Ravens will be looking to win their second national championship in three seasons in 2019-20. (Source: The Charlatan) (Header: Carleton University Ravens)

OTTAWA, Ont. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.

That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.

From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the women’s basketball program for the Carleton Ravens.

2018-19 in Review

After winning their first-ever U Sports Women’s Basketball National Championship in 2017-19, the Ravens came into the year with a target on their backs. Teams were going to give Carleton everything they could handle, and then some, and the road to repeating as champions was going to be a tough one.

During the regular season, the Ravens had to endure something they hadn’t over the last two seasons: multiple regular season losses. The Ravens finished with an 18-5 record, which was good enough for second place in the OUA East Division. With a pair of five-game winning streaks under their belts from the regular season, Carleton was looking to make another run at the National Championship.

The Ravens closed the season with an 8-2 record over their last 10 games to build some momentum heading into the post-season, but the road to the Final Eight was loaded with talent. Up first, the Ravens had to get past the host institution for the National Championships, the Ryerson Rams. The Ravens cruised to the 74-49 win over Ryerson to advance to the semi-finals.

There, the Ravens met the McMaster Marauders with a spot at Nationals on the line. Carleton gave it their all, but the Marauders used a hot start to put the Ravens in an early hole that they weren’t able to recover from. Carleton trailed 41-18 at the break, and the Marauders rolled to the 73-58 win.

After winning it all the previous season, the Ravens came within a game of making it back to the Final Eight to try and successfully defend their title. Instead, their season came to a premature end, and the attention shifted to the 2019-20 season.

Not long after the season came to a close, the Ravens underwent some changes, including their Head Coach making the move to the men’s program. With Dave Smart moving to the role of Director of Basketball Operations for the University, Taffe Charles accepted the vacant men’s head coaching position after leading the women’s team to their National Championship one year prior.

In terms of player personnel, the Ravens said goodbye to three veterans at the conclusion of last season.

Who’s Gone?

Carleton will be without three veterans from last year’s team, a list that includes their leading scorer and rebounder. All three players were key to the Ravens’ title two years ago, and will surely be missed.

The most notable subtraction from the roster is guard Nicole Gilmore (Hamilton, Ont.). Gilmore was an impact player on both ends of the floor, and she capped off her Carleton playing career with another strong season. She led the Ravens in both scoring and reobunding, averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.

She also chipped in 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Gilmore was a key piece of a Ravens’ defensive unit that was arguably the best in the OUA. During the regular season, Carleton allowed an OUA-low 1,242 points, an average of 54.0 points per game. Her ability to defend the opponent’s top players kept teams in check, and her ability to rebound helped to start fast break opportunities or give the Ravens second-chances on offense.

Also gone from the team are guards Cynthia Dupont (Coaticook, Que.) and Alex Trivieri (St. Catharines, Ont.), leaving three holes in the back court rotation that the Ravens needed to fill on the recruiting trail.

Dupont and Trivieri were leaders on the team, both on and off the court, and their presence alone will be tough to replace. Dupont averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 41.3% from the field and 77.1% from the free throw line.

In limited minutes, Trivieri posted 4.0 points and 1.5 rebounds per game, but was limited to just 28.4% shooting from the floor. She was, however, an effective free throw shooter, hitting an even 80% of her attempts in 2018-19.

With the losses of Gilmore, Dupont, and Trivieri, the production can be replaced. It’s their leadership, their experience, and their overall presence that you can’t. The Ravens will have their share of talent back this season, and a new crop of players will assume the veteran roles in 2019-20, but losing a trio like they did will be tough to replace.

Gilmore, Nicole
Nicile Gilmore led the team in scoring last season, and the Ravens will look to some of their younger players to step in and fill the void in 2019-20. (Source: The Charlatan)

Who’s Back?

Despite their losses, the Ravens return a core group from last year’s team that should have their home fans excited about the new campaign. Not only do they have a savvy veteran back for her fifth year of eligibility, they also have two of the league’s brightest stars back and ready to make a splash in OUA play.

The headliner of their returning group is veteran forward Alyssa Cerino (Stoney Creek, Ont.). The 6’0” forward is back for her fifth year of eligibility, and is the Ravens’ top returning scorer to boot. Last season, Cerino posted 12.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, while shooting 41.3% from the field and 72.1% from the free throw line.

Over the course of last year, Cerino was one of the OUA’s more consistent scorers. She posted double-digit points on 17 occasions during the regular season, giving the team a steady presence up front all year.

One of the most intriguing players across the OUA this season will be third-year guard Madison Reid (Carleton Place, Ont.). The 5’10” guard is one of the league’s top shooters from long range, and is a player who can score in bunches when her jump shot is on. Reid posted 11.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game last season, while shooting 39.3% from the floor and 32.6% from long range.

Reid had seven games in which she made three or more three-point jumpers, and she scored in double-figures 14 times. She has the ability to fill up the net when she gets hot, and that’s bad news for the rest of the OUA. Reid is one of the brightest stars in the OUA, and 2019-20 will be her coming out party for the nation to see.

Rounding out their core group of returnees is third-year forward Emma Kiesekamp (Merrickville, Ont.). The 6’1” forward showed flashes of what she can do on both ends of the court at times last season, but like Reid, the 2019-20 season should be her coming out party. Kiesekamp was a regular in the starting five, making 20 starts over her 21 regular season appearances.

She posted 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, both of which should increase this year.

The Ravens also welcome back role players like Karyne Jolicoeur (Ottawa, Ont.) and Emma Huff (Wakefield, Que.), both of whom should see an increase in minutes given the departures in the back court.

While most of the players returning for 2019-20 don’t have quite the level of experience yet as last year’s veterans, the talent is still there for Carleton this season. The potential is there for players in new roles to seize their opportunities and make names for themselves. Add in a strong, yet small, recruiting class, and the Ravens are shaping up to be a talented team again in 2019-20.

Kiesekamp, Emma
Emma Kiesekamp looks like a player for the Ravens who could make a splash on both ends of the floor this season. (Source: The Charlatan)

Incoming Talent

At this point in the off-season, the Ravens have two first-year players committed to the program, both of whom will add depth and talent to the back court rotation. Given the departures from said back court rotation after last season, the pair of first-year student-athletes will be welcomed with open arms by the Ravens.

The Ravens announced the commitments of both Tatyanna Burke (Hamilton, Ont.) and Kali Pocrnic (Oakville, Ont.) during the month of May. In fact, their announcements were made just two days apart. It was a good couple of days for the program on the recruiting trail.

In Burke, the Ravens are getting a 5’11” guard who will bring size and championship pedigree to the guard rotation. Burke enjoyed success while at Cardinal Newman Secondary, and she will be looking to help guide the Ravens through the tough OUA and back to the National Championships.

Pocrnic gives the Ravens a strong option at the point guard position. The 5’3” guard played her high school basketball at Lincoln Prep, and she adds more stability to the point guard position. Don’t be surprised if Pocrnic plays significant minutes from the outset with her impressive skill set.

Marlee Ball (Waterdown, Ont.) sat out last season after transferring to the Ravens from the Algoma Thunderbirds, where she played three seasons. Ball brings a veteran presence and a wealth of experience to the mix, and as the Ravens know from their title run, experience wins in collegiate basketball.

The 2019 recruiting class may be small, but the Ravens added a pair of guards to help add some depth back to the rotation after graduating three guards. Look for both Burke and Pocrnic to be key rotation players this season, and maybe even become fixtures in the starting five if they get acclimated to the collegiate game early on.

The Ravens are in an interesting position with the 2019-20 season just around the corner. With former Head Coach Taffe Charles now leading the way for the men’s program, the women’s program have yet to announce their next bench boss. Given that the 2019-20 regular season is a little more than two months away, time is slowly starting to run out.

With that said, the Ravens will enter the year as one of the more talented teams in the OUA. They welcome back a bulk of last year’s production, and their reserves from 2018-19 will take on expanded roles with the team this time around. Players like Kiesekamp and Reid are young stars in the league, and all signs point to the pair taking their games to another level this season.

Carleton already has a spot at Nationals locked up, as they will serve as the host institution. But, you can bet that the Ravens will want to earn their spot in the field, sending a message to the rest of the country in the process.

Especially on the hardwood, Carleton as a whole knows what it takes to win it all. It was just two seasons ago that the Ravens won their first-ever U Sports National Championship in women’s basketball, and they have their sights set on doing it again in 2019-20.

Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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