The biggest rivalry in U SPORTS is back at TD Place on Friday when the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees meet at the Capital Hoops Classic.
Sixteen and one, a singular loss that stands out as the Carleton Ravens women's team prepare for Friday night. "That identity was shaken a bit in December with that loss to [Ottawa U]" coach Dani Sinclair told TSN1200 on Wednesday. "They're a really strong team that we have a lot of respect for and they gave it to us."
The loss, which sent Carleton into the winter break knowing they would lose their #1 ranking to the still-undefeated Saskatchewan Huskies also galvanized the Ravens, helping them to zero in on this week's game. Last weekend, after a defensive first half, the Ravens exploded on the West Division leaders Waterloo, outscoring them 53-26 in the second half.
Holding Waterloo to just 48 points doesn't shock anyone who watches the Ravens closely, leading the country on defence, Carleton allows just 52.1 points per game. A number that was inflated by the team's 74-56 loss to Ottawa. Since returning from the break Carleton has held opponents at or under 40 points three times while averaging only 47.1 points against per game.
Ravens guard Kali Pocrnic has put up 20 points in back-to-back games, despite playing just 18 minutes against Laurier last Friday. The veteran has taken her game and leadership to another level as the Ravens look to defend their national title. "It's hard to imagine she could be better than a year ago, but she has been," Sinclair told TSN1200. "She's responded to every task we've put in front of her and become more and more of a leader."
It's perhaps a bit easier to lead for Pocrnic when you consider the team only lost one member of last year's national championship team, Emma Kiesekamp. While Kiesekamp is away playing professionally in Europe, second-year players Kyana-Jade Poulin, Zerina Duvnjak and Jacqueline Urban have stepped up into bigger roles. The Ravens have also welcomed back Tatyanna Burke who missed last season on academic exchange. Last year, Poulin provided 10 points for the Ravens in their Cap Hoops win, while Jacqueline Urban pulled down 12 rebounds before fouling out on a controversial error.
Ottawa's fast-paced play has them ranked 5th in U SPORTS in steals, a stat that was on display the last time the two teams met as Ottawa generated 9 steals, to Carleton's 10. Look for veterans Natsuki Szczoki and Ariane Saumure to lead the way for the garnet and grey, the two players both average over 11 points per game.