McDonald, Veinot Ready to Lead Axewomen on Quest for Third Consecutive AUS Championship

Veinot, Jayda
Jayda Veinot, the reigning AUS Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Year, is ready to have an even bigger impact for the Axewomen in Year Two. (Source: Truro News) (Header: U Sports)

WOLFVILLE, N.S. — 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 Acadia Axewomen.

2018-19 in Review

The 2018-19 season was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Acadia Axewomen. A stellar start the 2019 calendar year put the team in contention for a league title, but a rough finish dropped them out of the top two, forcing them to play an extra game in the playoffs as they worked towards a second straight AUS Championship.

Acadia finished the regular season with a record of 13-7. They finished in third place in the league, narrowly missing out on a bye to the semifinals of the AUS Championship.

The Axewomen were in the thick of things in the race for first-place in the regular season standings. Acadia opened the 2019 calendar year with eight wins over their first nine contests, pushing their record to 13-3 at the time. They were neck-and-neck with both the Cape Breton Capers and UPEI Panthers atop the standings, but only two teams would receive a coveted bye in the post-season.

For the Axewomen, they had all of the momentum in their corner. But, down the stretch, Acadia hit a few challenges and lost their final four contests to fall out of the top two, ultimately finishing third.

Despite their sluggish finish, the Axewomen entered the post-season with a ton of confidence. In their quarter-final contest against the Dalhousie Tigers, the Axewomen moved one step closer to defending their AUS Championship with a 74-54 win. In the semifinals, the Axewomen knocked off UPEI, the league’s second seed, in what was the second upset of the round. Acadia used a record-breaking performance form one of their stars to knock off the Panthers, which you’ll read about a little later on.

The Memorial Sea-hawks knocked off the top-seeded Capers in the other semi-final.

In the finals, the Sea-hawks and Axewomen both had title aspirations. The experience of the Axewomen ultimately carried them to victory, and Acadia secured their second straight AUS Championship with an 84-74 win over Memorial.

At Nationals, the Axewomen would post a record of 1-2 over the course of the event. An opening round loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies, 77-69, send Acadia to the Consolation Bracket. They bounced back with an 86-74 win over the Concordia Stingers to secure a spot in the Consolation Final against the host Ryerson Rams.

The Rams came out on fire and overpowered the Axewomen from the start. Acadia finished in sixth-place at Nationals after their 91-67 loss to the Rams.

All in all, the Axewomen were able to weather the storm down the stretch in the regular season and punch their ticket to a second consecutive U Sports Women’s Basketball Final Eight Championship. This season, with their top two scorers back to lead the way, Head Coach Len Harvey and his team have their sights set on a third straight league title and another berth to Nationals.

Who’s Gone?

In total, the Axewomen lose eight players from last year’s team for various reasons. Some have graduated while some have years of eligibility remaining but aren’t returning. One player had her career cut short due to injuries, while the last opted to transfer closer to come.

Ellen Hatt (Fall River, NS) is one of three players leaving who averaged more than 8.1 points per game last season. Hatt is the top scorer who has left the program, as she posted 8.7 points to go along with 4.5 rebounds per game in her senior season. She was also one of just two players for Acadia to start all 20 regular season games.

Hatt’s veteran presence, coupled with her experience, will be tough for the Axewomen to replace.

Shalyn Field (Wolfville, NS) saw the floor on 16 occasions during the regular season, making three starts along the way. In just shy of 19 minutes of floor time per night, Field posted 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 35.6% from the field and 61.8% from the free throw line. Field was one of seven players for Acadia to average at least 3.9 rebounds per game last year.

Katie McAffee (Lower Knoxville, NB) averaged 8.2 minutes per game across 16 regular season appearances last season, which was her first with the program. McAffee opted to transfer to the New Brunswick Reds to be closer to home for the remainder of her collegiate career.

Lanae Adams (Lawrenceville, GA.) still had a year of eligibility left with the program, but injuries forced her to call it a career earlier than she anticipated. Adams had surgery on her foot, and it was deemed that now was the time to pack it in. Last season, Adams posted 8.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per contest while shooting 39.9% from the floor and 42.1% from three-point range.

Adams was the recipient of the Tracy MacLeod Award for the 2018-19 season. Voted on by the U Sports Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the ward is named in honour of Tracy MacLeod, and rewards determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit.

Alyson Fulton (Merigomish, NS) graduated following the 2018-19 season, while the trio of Taylor Tolliver (Cole Harbour, NS), Miranda Crawley (Halifax, NS), and Kaisen MacKinnon (Cole Harbour, NS) won’t return to the program this season.

The Axewomen lose their share of production from last year’s team, but they retain their top two scorers. Add in a few breakout candidates who also return to Acadia, and the Axewomen have a group that will be looking to complete the trifecta in 2019-20.

Who’s Back?

While they lose eight players in total from last year’s roster, they welcome back seven names in 2019-20, making it a pretty even split in terms of departures and returnees. With their top scorer and the reigning AUS Rookie of the Year both back in the mix, Coach Harvey is excited about what lies ahead.

“The returning group is fantastic,” said Harvey. “I think we have potential to be very deep this season, and even though we have a number of new players to the roster, our cohesiveness has the potential to be a really strong positive for the group.”

“Their commitment to training this off-season as an entire group has been the best we could have asked for, and we have a lot of different players hungry to earn their roles, which should lead to really competitive training.”

McDonald, Haley (2)
Haley McDonald finished third across all U Sports players last season in scoring, averaging 23.3 points per contest. (Source: The Toronto Star)

Leading the way in terms of returnees is Haley McDonald (Port Williams, NS). From the first game of the regular season through to the Consolation Final at Nationals, McDonald was arguably the most consistent player in the country on offense. She recorded at least 10 points in every regular season game, and her 23.3 points per game average ranked third across the U Sports landscape.

While she was consistent throughout the season, she saved her best performance for the post-season. After recording 13 points in the Axewomen’s quarter-final win over Dalhousie, McDonald went for an AUS-record 51 points in Acadia’s win over UPEI. In 39 minutes of action, she went 18-of-33 from the field, and 5-of-11 from three-point range, en route to breaking the 42-year old record in the conference.

McDonald also averaged 3.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 40.7% from the field. This season, McDonald is one of the premier players in Canada, and she will look to close her career with yet another league championship.

Joining McDonald this season is second-year wing Jayda Veinot (Port Williams, NS). Last season, her first at Acadia, Veinot was named the AUS Rookie of the Year for her efforts on the court. She posted five games with at least 20 points over the course of the year, and she topped the 40-point mark in earl February. On February 9th against Cape Breton, Veinot finished the night with 41 points on 17-of-30 shooting from the field.

For the season, Veinot posted 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 43.1% from the field, 40.0% from beyond the arc, and 83.0% from the free throw line. Veinot gives the team a ton of versatility with her size and shooting ability, and she will look to follow up her standout season with another strong showing as a second-year player in 2019-20.

“Having Haley and Jayda back again gives us a lot of firepower,” added Harvey. “They’ve added even more to their games this spring and summer.”

Two players who could be in for breakout seasons this season are Sarsha Cadle (Melbourne, Australia) and Rachel Clouatre-Trudeau (St. Jean sur Richelieu, Que.). Both players saw the floor in all 20 regular season games, with Cadle making 12 starts and Clouatre-Trudeau starting once.

Cadle led the Axewomen with 7.5 rebounds per contest despite averaging just 19.1 minutes per game. Both players averaged more than 4.0 points per game, and they look to be in prime position to take on expanded roles this year.

Meghan MacLeod (Wolfville, NS) and Claire Ayotte (Perth Andover, NB) round out this year’s group of returnees.

“I’m really excited about Rachel and Sarsha continuing to expand their roles on and off the court,” continued Harvey. “Meg and Claire have both had great off-seasons as well, so overall, I’m really happy with the leadership, and commitment from the returners.”

The Axewomen will undoubtedly be led by the pair of McDonald and Veinot, and they give Acadia one of the top one-two punches in U Sports, let alone the AUS. Their roster is full of experience this season, and that’s before you factor in their new recruits on top of their seven returnees.

Incoming Talent

“I’m quite excited for this year’s recruiting class,” added Harvey. “I think we have added impact players in different positions, gotten bigger, and also added a few freshmen who have really big upside to be very solid USPORTS players.”

The Axewomen have added eight players to the mix this season, putting heir roster right back to 15 players after losing eight from last year’s team. In total, Acadia has added three players by way of transfer from other programs, and five players from the high school ranks.

DeeDee Harris (Atlanta, GA) comes to the Axewomen from Miami Dade College. The JUCO forward stands at 6’3’’, and she will give Acadia a physically imposing and competitive presence in the paint on both ends of the floor.

Acadia has added two players from across Canada on the transfer market. Mia Roberts (Victoria, BC) comes to the Axewomen after a stint with the Camosun Chargers in the PACWEST. With a high level of court vision and basketball I.Q., Roberts should be a big factor in the rotation from the outset of the season. Michele Tchiakoua (Montreal, Que.) comes to Acadia from Dalhousie. While she’s currently rehabbing an ACL injury, Tchiakoua has been an impact player in the AUS in the past, and her experience will help the Axewomen down the stretch.

In terms of high school prospects, Liv Moller (Bedford, NS) is a player who stands out. The speedy guard played for Coach Harvey on the Under-17 provincial team, so the two are familiar with one another. With her speed, the Axewomen will look to out-run opponents in transition with Moller leading the charge.

Acadia will also feature a pair of local guards in Abbie Fox and Hannah Fuller. Fox gives the Axewomen their potential point guard of the future with her ball control and vision, while Fuller adds athleticism to the back court rotation with her speed and competitive edge.

Rounding out the recruiting class are Lizzy Beals-Iseyemi (Dartmouth, NS) and Julia Sylvester (Hamilton, Ont.). Beals-Iseyemi played at St. Paul’s Prep in New Hampshire, and the 6’0’’ forward adds more athleticism and strength to the front court. On the wing, Sylvester brings a ton of length to the floor, and being a left-handed player will keep opponents on their toes.

The Axewomen have advanced to three straight AUS Championship games, winning the last two. Heading into 2019-20, they have their sights set on a third straight league title, and they have a roster that is more than capable of doing so.

While they lost experience with their graduating players, they addressed that with three incoming transfers. They’ve bolstered the depth of their roster with five first-year players, all of whom bring something different to the table. Add in the likes of McDonald and Veinot who will be leading the charge, and the Axewomen have created a strong buzz around their program.

The top of the AUS standings this season will be fun. With UPEI and Acadia looking like the early favourites to win the league, the 20-game slate throughout the regular season will be a fight to the end. This time, Acadia will look to finish strong and carry even more momentum into the post-season.

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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