The Ryerson women’s basketball team’s national championship dream was convincingly crushed Thursday.
The Rams were beaten 73-51 by the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, the Laval Rouge et Or.
It was the first night of play in the national finals, being hosted by Ryerson at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The game started well for Ryerson, with the Rams jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead, but that didn’t phase Laval.
The Rouge et Or finished on a 13-3 run to end the first quarter up 20-11.
Laval was led by Sarah-Jane Marois, the U SPORTS player of the year, who had 17 points in the quarterfinal.
She said the team was not phased by Ryerson’s quick start.
“We knew that if we were playing our game, running the floor well, it was going to turn and come our way in the game. So we weren’t really stressed about that (early deficit),” she said.
Laval stretched its lead even further in the second quarter and went into halftime up 32-19.
However, just as they did in the first quarter the Rams came out quickly to start the second half.
They were able to cut the Laval lead to seven, but Laval bounced back with an 8-0 run and stretched the lead back to double digits.
“We cut it to seven in the third, and there was a stretch where we had a chance to get it to five,” said Carly Clarke, Ryerson’s head coach. “You could see the difference and a little bit of our youth in some positions where we just relaxed or get out of gas and they (Laval) are just so steady.”
Unfortunately for the Rams there was no comeback, as Laval stretched out its lead again in the third and even more so in the fourth to win the game by 22.
A key for the Rouge et Or, according to their coach Guilaume Giroux was to win the rebound battle. And they did just that, out-rebounding Ryerson 47-36.
Laval was led by U SPORTS defensive player of the year Khaléann Caron-Goudreau, who had 12 rebounds on the night.
A key to winning that battle was shutting down Ryerson’s OUA all-star Sofia Paska, a task that was taken on by Caron-Goudreau herself.
“We watched a lot of film and I individually watched all the offensive clips of number eight (Paska) so I knew I was really ready to play her,” said Caron-Goudreau. “The goal was not to let the ball into her and then protect the cuts and the three-point line.”
Laval executed perfectly as the Rams hit zero three pointers all night going 0-14 which, according to Coach Clarke, hurt the team.
“We knew we were going to have to make some shots tonight to have a chance, and we got a couple of good looks,” said Clarke. “We needed to make some but they didn’t fall.”
Clarke said Laval just wore her team down and said that, simply put, they’re just a “real good team.”
Ryerson’s leading scorer was Hayley Robertson, with 16 points. She said that, despite the loss, she is very proud of her team’s performance.
“There’s a lot to learn from today’s game. I think it’s just really about compete and toughness and staying together,” she said. “We got to get a couple more shots to drop, but I was proud of our team’s grit and tenacity even when things were down.”
The Rams will have to bounce back Friday as they head into the consolation bracket.
According to Robertson it won’t be difficult to find motivation.
“As a team, we’ve always talked about sticking together through the ups and downs,” said Robertson. “We have to keep our head up and finish every game strong. We have amazing fans and amazing teammates to play for.”
In other play Thursday, McMaster beat Concordia 86-68, Saskatchewan beat Acadia 77-69 and Ottawa beat Regina 65-63.
The Rams take on the Regina Cougars Friday night at 8 p.m. at the MAC in the second consolation semifinal.