SAULT STE. MARIE, 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 Sault College Cougars.
2018-19 in Review
Like the men’s program, the women’s basketball program at Sault College came into the 2018-19 season looking to reverse their fortunes. With their last win coming back on January 21st, 2017 against the Cambrian Golden Shield, 55-47, the Cougars were looking to notch a win and avoid another winless season.
While they were competitive and kept games close throughout the regular season, the end result was still the same for the Cougars.
For the second year in a row, the Cougars finished OCAA in last place in the West Division with a record of 0-20. While they were competitive at times, the Cougars were limited to an average of 46.2 points per game while shooting 29.2% from the floor as a team.
The Cougars found themselves in contention to pick up some wins throughout the season, but the results didn’t go in their favour. On five occasions the Cougars were handed a loss in games that were decided by single digits. Their closest game of the year came back on November 16th against the Redeemer Royals. Sault College outscored the Royals by a 25-18 margin in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but ultimately fell in the end, 66-63.
Sault College had four players finish with 10 or more rebounds in the loss.
Despite the winless record, Head Coach Gary Cormier found the positive from last season.
“The main takeaway from last season I would have to say would be the improved culture and positivity that was consistently spread throughout the players and coaching staff,” said Cormier.
Heading into the new season, the Cougars will be without five players from last year’s team, but several key returnees and a strong recruiting class have helped to raise the level of optimism surrounding the program in 2019-20.
In the Cougars’ regular season finale last year, the program honoured five players who had played their final game with the team. Among the group of graduates was the one player who started all 20 games for the Cougars in 2018-19, leaving a void that Coach Cormier will look to fill this season.
Mercedes Ryan (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) was the lone player for the Cougars to start all 20 games in 2018-19. The hometown product finished second on the team in both scoring and rebounding in her final season with the Cougars, averaging 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
Not only that, but Ryan was one of the team’s better two-way players. In addition to her scoring and rebounding numbers, she averaged 3.3 assists and 2.9 steals per contest. The Cougars will be in tough to replace Ryan’s contributions on both ends of the floor.
Off the bench, the Cougars will need to replace four role players from last year’s group. The likes of Autumn Hay-Beharriell (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), Mackenzie Mazzuca (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), Alexandra Cooper (Dryden, Ont.), and Natalie Isaacs (Toronto, Ont.) have played their final games with the Cougars.
Outside of Ryan, Hay-Beharriell found herself in the starting five most frequently. The hometown product made 14 starts throughout the season while appearing in all 20 contests. The other three players were used primarily in a reserve role off the bench.
The Cougars will look to their returning group and incoming talent to fill the voids left by the graduates. With their leading scorer back in 2019-20, the Cougars will have a familiar face to lean on.
The 2019-20 roster has yet to be finalized for Sault College ,so we’re speculating on who may be back with the program this season.
Last season, the Cougars had just four players who averaged more than 5.0 points per contest. Fortunately for them, three of those players could be back in a Cougars uniform in 2019-20. Having that experience will help a younger roster get acclimated to the OCAA grind.
The biggest returnee for Coach Cormier and his staff this season is forward Cassidy Sabourin (Timmins, Ont.). Last season, Sabourin started 19 games while appearing in all 20 contests, and she put up some impressive numbers for the Cougars. She ranked fifth in the OCAA in rebounding, averaging 10.7 rebounds per contest.
To go along with her rebounds, Sabourin posted a team-best 14.4 points per game to average a double-double for the season. She had double-digit rebounds on 16 occasions during the regular season, posting nine double-doubles along the way. On both ends of the floor, Sabourin was far and away the Cougars’ most consistent player, and having her back in uniform for the 2019-20 season will be a big boost for the program.
Hometown forward Emma Filion (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) made 12 starts during the regular season while seeing the court in all 20 games. She ranked as the team’s third leading scorer, averaging 5.5 points to go along with 6.3 rebounds per contest. Filion had a pair of 12-point performances during the regular season, one of which came in the regular season finale against the St. Clair Saints.
Bryanna Baker (Thunder Bay, Ont.) and Kayley Hannusch (Cambridge, Ont.) are back this season, and after primarily coming off the bench in 2018-19, they could both be in for an expanded role in 2019-20.
Again, the 2019-20 returning class is purely speculation at this point. However, they do have a strong recruiting class that should help change the fortunes of the program.
While the Cougars have only released two names of their 2019 recruiting class, both players should be able to step in and play significant roles with the team from the outset of the season.
On the back end, the Cougars have added point guard Cecilia Holzwarth (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) to the mix for the 2019-20 season, and beyond. Over the last two seasons, Holzwarth led her high school program at White Pines in points, assists, and steals while earning Team MVP honours both times.
The addition of Holzwarth adds depth to the back court rotation, while giving the team a number one option from the point guard spot.
Up front, the Cougars have added another hometown product who will look to have an immediate impact in 2019-20. Forward Skylar Toms (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) comes to Sault College after a successful high school career at Korah Collegiate. The 5’1” wing brings versatility and athleticism to the lineup for the Cougars, and her ability to guard multiple positions will allow for Coach Cormier to configure different lineups based on their opponents.
While more recruits are on the horizon, the Cougars managed to pick up a pair of hometown products to boost their depth on both sides of the ball.
The past two seasons haven’t been too kind to the Sault College Cougars on the hardwood. Without a win in each of the last two seasons, the Cougars will be looking for any sort of positive momentum in 2019-20 as they try to climb out of the basement in the OCAA.
“We are really looking forward to seeing what the girls coming back can contribute to the overall success of the team,” added Cormier. “The girls will be coming into training camp further ahead than they were last year.”
“The coaching staff and players are looking forward to the upcoming season.”
With the likes of Toms and Holzwarth in the mix, plus more recruits on the horizon, the Cougars are assembling a roster that will look to be more competitive than recent years. The Cougars will have their share of size this season, and that should bode well for them in the OCAA.
All it takes is one win to get the ball moving in the right direction, and the Cougars will look to get their first win out of the way early on 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