BURLINGTON, Ont. – For the first time since their championship clashes last season, the nationally ranked Carleton Ravens (No. 4) will do battle with the No. 7 Queen’s Gaels in a matchup that has marquee written all over it.
The two teams have combined for just one loss this season, following up their championship-calibre seasons with even more impressive outings thus far, but if last year’s provincial finale and national bronze medal game were any indication, this weekend’s contest should be the toughest to date.
In their recent OUA championship bout, the Ravens were able to limit the Gaels offensively, to the tune of just 19.7% shooting from the field and a pair of threes. Queen’s, to their credit, also maintained a top-tier defensive game plan, holding the Ravens to just over 27% shooting, but Carleton was able to push through that little bit extra for the 49-41 win. The two teams would go on to meet once again on the national stage with a bronze medal on the line, and it was Carleton coming out ahead (53-43) once again thanks to fourth quarter surge against their fellow OUA combatants.
Don’t let these past numbers fool you; however, as looking beyond those defense-oriented performances, the Ravens and Gaels are both tremendously gifted offensively. The two squads, who rank first and second respectively in the OUA, sit atop the province this season in points for, and are separated by just three total points for the year, with Carleton holding the slight edge.
A key figure in Carleton’s Critelli Cup win last season was OUA First-Team All-Star Heather Lindsay (15 PTS, 16 REB), who has continued to be a force this season with team-leading averages of 12.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG. The fifth-year forward continues to use her potent post-game to wreak havoc on the opposition, and the OUA’s newest 1,000 point scorer will look to continue that strong play down low in Friday’s affair. Also shouldering significant parts of the offensive load for the Ravens will be forwards Elizabeth Leblanc (10.6 PPG) and fellow 2016-17 OUA First-Team All-Star Catherine Traer (9.4 PPG), who have combined to average 20 points per contest for the undefeated Ravens.
Not to be outdone, the Gaels and their 73.8 PPG also have a host of weapons to unleash on the opposition; not the least of which is Veronika Lavergne. A top-ten scorer in the OUA this season, Lavergne has been a standout for the Gaels, securing 15.8 points per contest and pulling down over seven rebounds on average. Following Lavergne is Marianne Alarie, who checks in with a solid 13.0 PPG, while the trio of Andrea Priamo, Abby Dixon, and two-sport standout Sophie de Goede each chip in with around nine points per game.
It’s clear that there are plenty of scoring options for the two clubs, but much of the offense may be tough to come by, as has been seen in their previous matchups. If their offensive prowess isn’t enough, they are also the most effective clubs at the defensive end in terms of points allowed, once again sitting top two in the conference.
Queen’s is able to makes waves on defense with their ability to rebound (44.9 RPG), protect the rim (5.5 BPG), and impede the passing lanes (12.0 SPG), as the Gaels rank in the top three in all three of these key categories. Led by Dixon’s 3.0 steals, the Tricolour have three players averaging more than two thefts per game and are once again led by Lavergne’s shot blocking ability around the net. As a unit, they also hold opponents to just 32.8% shooting, which sits second behind only the Ravens.
In fact, the Ravens hold the top spot in several defensive categories, including the aforementioned opponents’ field goal percentage (27.9), as well as defensive rebounds per game (29.4) and blocks per game (5.8). When protecting the rim, the team can thank the same trio of Traer, Leblanc, and Lindsay for leading the way, with each averaging at least one block per game. With that imposing presence on the inside, it’s no surprise that teams are finding it difficult to score, as Carleton checks in with a stingy 46.8 points allowed.
Certainly, both teams have the skill to thrive on both ends of the court, which should make for an intriguing matchup regardless of which end of the spectrum the play leans toward.
Queen’s and Carleton will be looking to notch their second provincial titles later this season, but in the meantime, fans will get to see a heavyweight bout from two of the most potent powerhouses the OUA, and all of U SPORTS, has to offer. If you can’t make it to the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC), you can catch all the action on OUA.tv on January 12 at 6:00pm.