Queen’s Welcomes Back Wilson in 2020-21 as Gaels Get Set to Host 2021 U Sports Final 8 National Championships

Bambury, James (2)
After leading the Gaels to a 15-7 record last season as the Interim Head Coach, James Bambury will resume the role of Assistant Coach as Dave Wilson returns for the 2020-21 season. (Source: James Bambury) (Header: The Kingston-Whig Standard)

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

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2019-20 season, one that had no shortage of excitement across both U Sports and the CCAA, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead.

The 2020-21 season is going to be one for the history books. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the season has been pushed back until at least January 2021 for most leagues, with Quebec as the exception. The RSEQ has yet to make a decision on whether or not to delay sports until the Winter semester.

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 2020-21 season.

That’s 112 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally at home.

We are attempting to preview each and every team from coast to coast ahead of the new season. Challenges have emerged in each of the last two seasons as we’ve attempted this feat before, but we’re going to give it another run.

As they say, third time’s the charm. Right?

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 Queen’s Gaels Women’s Basketball program.

Meadows, Claire (2)
Former Queen’s standout Claire Meadows will return to her alma mater as the Gaels new Head Coach in 2021. (Source: Saskatoon – The Star Phoenix)

2019-20 in Review

Looking at how the 2019-20 season went for the Queen’s Gaels, it goes to show you just how tough the OUA is on a regular basis.

The Gaels closed the regular season with a record of 15-7, finishing in a tie for 2nd in the OUA East Division standings with the Carleton Ravens. Queen’s closed the regular season on a six-game winning streak, but the season had its share of ups and downs from the outset.

To begin the season, Queen’s went 5-1 over their first six games. Their hot start was capped off by a pair of home wins over the Ottawa Gee-Gees and aforementioned Ravens, both of whom were top 10 teams in the U Sports rankings. As a result of their strong start, the Gaels rose to as high as 3rd in the country.

The Gaels were ranked inside the U Sports Top 10 rankings for a total of 12 consecutive weeks to begin the season, and they received votes every week in 2019-20.

After their strong start, the Gaels hit a bit of a lull. They dropped three of their next four games before closing the first semester with a 76-47 win over the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks to give themselves a momentum boost heading into the stretch run.

At 7-4 after the first semester, Queen’s came into the second half looking to keep pace with the likes of the Gee-Gees and Ravens atop the East Division. Instead, they dropped three of their first five games out of the break, falling to 9-7 as a result.

From that point on, the Gaels wouldn’t lose the rest of the way in the regular season. Queen’s won their final six games of the regular season, entering the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league.

By way of their regular season finish, the Gaels didn’t qualify for a First Round Bye in the Critelli Cup Playoffs, but they did earn the right to host their First Round contest. The Gaels drew the Laurier Golden Hawks to kick off the playoffs, and Queen’s flexed its muscle on both ends of the floor.

At the break, the Gaels led 35-21, thanks in part to a second quarter that saw Queen’s outscore the Golden Hawks by an 18-5 margin. The Gaels used a strong fourth quarter to pad their lead, sealing the deal on their 78-50 victory to advance to the OUA Quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals against the Ryerson Rams, the first half was entirely different for the Gaels. On the road, the Gaels found themselves down 41-18 at the break. Despite their best efforts in the second half, Queen’s saw their season come to a close with a 74-59 defeat at the hands of the Rams.

Ryerson would advance to the OUA Championship Game, which resulted in a Silver Medal, and would partake at Nationals.

It was an up-and-down season for the Gaels, their first without Head Coach Dave Wilson, who retired after 38 seasons following the 2018-19 campaign. Interim Head Coach James Bambury and his staff made some changes to their systems leading up to the year, and they resulted in an offense that averaged 9.8 points per game more than the year prior.

[Listen to James Bambury discuss the 2019-20 season for the Queen’s Gaels on the Four Quarters Pocast]

The off-season sparked one of change for the Gaels behind the bench. Alum Claire Meadows was named the next Head Coach of the program back on May 14th, and will assume the role as of April 2021. Most recently, Meadows was an Associate Head Coach with the Saskatchewan Huskies, the 2020 U Sports Women’s Basketball National Champions. Meadows played five seasons for the Gaels, earning an OUA East Division First Team All-Star award, a CIS All-Canadian nomination, and University Award of Merit over her career.

For 2020-21, Wilson will return to the Head Coaching role to guide the Gaels in transition, Bambury will remain with the staff as an Assistant Coach. The 2020-21 season will also be a special one for the Gaels, as they will host the 2021 U Sports Final 8 Women’s Basketball National Championship inside the Queen’s Athletics & Recreation Centre from March 11-14, 2020.

Given what lies ahead for the Gaels, the roster will have a familiar look to it in 2020-21. The bulk of their production is expected to be back this year, and that bodes well for a program that was nationally ranked for the majority of 2019-20.

Who’s Gone?

With the ever-changing situation surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, and its effect on school enrollment for the fall semester and beyond, speculating what the 2020-21 roster could look like for the Gaels is about the best we can do at this point.

Last season, the Gaels honoured a pair of graduates on the night of their final home game against the Nipissing Lakers on February 8th. Post Myriam Fontaine (Cornwall, Ont.) and forward Adriana Conti (Cornwall, Ont.) were honoured as the two graduates of the Queen’s program.

Fontaine, Myriam
Forward Myriam Fontaine was one of two players honoured ahead of the Gaels’s final regular season home game against Nipissing on February 8th. (Source: Queen’s Gaels)

Over 17 games, eight of which were starts, Fontaine averaged 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 40.5% from the field, 35.3% from three-point range, and 73.9% from the free throw line. Fontaine started the first six games of the season before missing the next five to close the first semester.

Fontaine posted three games with double-digit points in the second half of the year, highlighted by a near triple-double performance on Senior’s Night. Against the Lakers, Fontaine recorded 11 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists in the Gaels’ 105-53 win to close out her regular season home career in style.

Conti saw the floor in seven games last season, averaging 2.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game off the bench. The Cornwall native shot 31.8% from the field and 30.8% from three-point range.

While she didn’t play with the Gaels last season, it’s worth noting that forward Veronika Lavergne (Ottawa, Ont.) will be making her return to collegiate basketball, just not with Queen’s. After sitting out the 2019-20 season, Lavergne will make her return in 2020-21, having committed to the Calgary Dinos in the Canada West.

The Gaels will be without two veterans from last year’s roster, but they are expected to return a boatload of talent and experience on both ends of the floor. While some things are still up in the air, the returning group for the Gaels will be looking to do some damage in 2020-21 as they gear up to host the 2021 U Sports Final 8 Women’s Basketball National Championship.

Who’s Back?

Like most schools and programs all across Canada, Queen’s University is awaiting the start of the school year to officially confirm who will be back and who may be taking a year off given the remote learning offering as opposed to in-person classes.

For the Gaels, if the roster shakes down as one should expect, they will have their share of both talent and experience back and ready to build off last season. Queen’s is expected to return its top seven scorers from last season, a group that includes three double-digit scorers, three players entering their second or third year of eligibility, and an OUA Third Team All-Star.

Chadwick, Julia
Forward Julia Chadwick ranked among the OUA Leaders in several categories in 2019-20 as a second-year player, and she’ll look to continue her strong play in 2020-21 as the Gaels get set to host Nationals. (Source: Queen’s Gaels)

Forward Julia Chadwick (Ottawa, Ont.) had herself a stellar second season with the Gaels in 2019-20. She was among the league leaders in various categories as a second-year player, highlighting her ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Chadwick ranked 4th in the OUA in rebounds per game (8.9), 2nd in total rebounds (195), 2nd in defensive rebounds (132), 9th in total steals (39), and 9th in total blocked shots (19).

For the season, Chadwick averaged 12.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 44.9% from the field and 63.4% from the free throw line. Down the stretch, Chadwick was key to the Gaels’ run to the playoffs, recording double-digit points in 10 of 11 games in the 2020 portion of the schedule. Her second half run was headlined by a double-double performance against the Laurier Golden Hawks back on February 1st. Chadwick recorded 18 points and 21 rebounds in the 80-44 win for the Gaels, marking one of her seven double-doubles for the year.

Chadwick also finished the year with 18 games in double-digit points.

Fellow forward Sophie de Goede (Victoria, B.C.) is expected to be back for her fifth and final season of eligibility. The dual-sport star missed time during the first semester due to the Gaels Women’s Rugby Team making a run to the U Sports National Championship Game. When their run came to a close, de Goede and the Gaels had their second U Sports Silver Medal in the last five seasons after a 22-14 loss to the Laval Rouge et Or.

At the end of the U Sports National Championship, de Goede was named a Championship All-Star.

On the court, de Goede saw action in 16 games for the Gaels, averaging 12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 45.6% from the field and 70.8% from the free throw line. She ranked 6th in the OUA in rebounds per game and 9th in field goal percentage, while she ranked 4th in the league in points per game per 40 minutes (23.5ppg).

Like Chadwick, de Goede was key in the Gaels’ stretch run towards the playoffs. In the second semester, the Victoria native had double-digit points in nine of 11 contests, and finished the year with five double-doubles.

The front court tandem of Chadwick and de Goede gives the Gaels an edge over most teams inside on both ends of the floor. Both are among the top rebounders in the league, and they are effective from the field on offense.

In the back court, the Gaels are expected to return the pair of Laura Donovan (London, Ont.) and Emma Ritcey (Orillia, Ont.) to lead the way. Last season as a second-year student-athlete, Donovan averaged 11.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 41.5% from the floor and 78.8% from the free throw line.

For her efforts over the course of the year, Ritcey was named a Third Team OUA All-Star at year’s end. She averaged 9.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 40.3% from the field, 38.4% from three-point range, and 84.2% from the free throw line.

Ritcey ranked 5th in the OUA in three-point shooting percentage, 6th in assists per game, and 5th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7). Ritcey recorded at least five assists in 10 games throughout the year. Offensively, she started the year strong, posting double-digit points in five of the Gaels’ first six games, helping them get off to their 5-1 start.

Guards Emma Weltz (Timmins, Ont.), Isabella Belvedere (Bolton, Ont.), and Michelle Istead (Otawa, Ont.) should be back in 2020-21, adding more depth to the back court rotation for the Gaels as a result.

In her first season in the OUA, Belvedere played like anything but a rookie in 2019-20. She averaged 7.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game while shooting 34.5% from the field and 32.8% from three-point range. If you average her points per game out over 40 minutes, Belvedere averaged 18.3 points per contest.

Weltz posted 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, all while shooting 41.6% from the field and 67.4% from the free throw line. Defensively, Weltz was among the OUA’s best as she ranked 5th in the league in total steals, finishing the year with 45.

Over 22 games, Istead posted 7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per contest. She shot 34.5% from the field and 62.2% from the free throw line.

On the bench is where the biggest ‘return’ can be found. Former Head Coach Dave Wilson returns for the 2020-21 season to bridge the gap before the Claire Meadows era begins in April 2021. Wilson retired after the 2018-19 season, marking the end of a 38-year career leading the Queen’s Women’s Basketball Program. Having left with 385 wins under his belt, there’s a good chance he’ll top the 400 career wins mark in 2020-21.

Overall, the Gaels are expected to return their top seven scorers from last season, all of whom averaged at least 7.5 points per contest. In fact, nine of their top 10 scorers will be back in Kingston, with the exception of Fontaine. Given the changes the Gaels made to their offense last season, and the results that came from it, Queen’s will be looking to continue that progression in 2020-21 as they aim to build momentum heading into Nationals.

Incoming Talent

In addition to their strong returning group, the Gaels have added three players to the mix in their 2020-21 recruiting class. They have added more depth to the back court rotation with their commits, all of whom they hope can help the program achieve its goals, both now and into the future.

Laura MacKinnon (Hammonds Plains, N.S.) was the first player to commit to the Gaels for next season, announcing her decision back on December 18th, 2019. MacKinnon comes to Queen’s from King’s-Edgehill School in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Penalosa, Cassiel
Guard Cassiel Penalosa committed to the Gaels back on February 25th, 2020. (Source: Queen’s Gaels)

The Gaels will add some more West Coast flare to the roster, as guard Cassiel Penalosa (Surrey, B.C.) has committed to Queen’s University. Penalosa comes to the Gaels by way of St. Thomas More Collegiate and Triple Threat Basketball, and gives Queen’s more depth at the point guard spot.

Rounding out the group of three recruits is guard Isabella Gaudet (Ottawa, Ont.). Gaudet comes to the Gaels from Capital Courts Academy, and has signed her U Sports Letter of Intent to attend Queen’s University for the 2020-21 season.

With the addition of their three recruits to their group of returnees, the roster for the Gaels is likely set. Equipped with a deep roster, both up front and in the back court, the Gaels have the pieces in place to make a run at a National Championship on their home floor. The group of MacKinnon, Penalosa, and Gaudet will look to help Queen’s achieve their goal of a National Championship this season, while also helping the program maintain its level of success down the road as their respective careers unfold.

All eyes will be on the Queen’s Gaels this season, for several reasons. With the legendary Dave Wilson returning for one more season, to the program hosting the 2021 U Sports Final 8 in Kingston, the Gaels are hoping that this is their year.

They expect to return their top seven scorers from an offense that averaged close to 10 points per game more than the previous season, and they will be looking to continue their progression in an always-competitive OUA. Equipped with one of the top front court tandems (Chadwick and de Goede), plus a reigning OUA All-Star guard (Ritcey) leading the way on the back end, the Gaels have a healthy combination of experience and talent.

We’ve said before, and we’ll say it again. Experience wins in college basketball. For the Queen’s Gaels, they are hoping that statement rings true in 2020-21 as they aim for a National Championship on their home floor.

Be sure to bookmark our 2020-21 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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