Hurricanes women's basketball team not backing down  

Jason Malloy
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Holland College draws three-time defending champs in first round of national tournament

To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.

And the Holland College Hurricanes have the chance to do just that Thursday, when they start play at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association women's basketball championship against the three-time defending champion Nomades de Montmorency.

"If you're looking for a soft game, you're in the wrong spot," Hurricanes coach Mike Connolly said. "Everybody there is a champion of their conference or very, very good teams across the country. You had to go through (Montmorency) anyway at some point in time, so let's take them on and see what happens."

The Hurricanes went 18-2 in the regular season and won the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association championship. The Nomades went 15-3 during the season, but lost to Sainte-Foy in the Quebec conference final. The loss left the Nomades seeded fifth and drawing the fourth-ranked Hurricanes in the eight-team tournament.

Holland College beat the Nomades by 13 in pre-season play at Montmorency.

Connolly said the host team was missing some key players that day, but the Hurricanes are a much deeper team than they were in the fall, having added four new players in January. The win has provided the team with some confidence, but the players know the only victory that matters now is Thursday.

"Our first round (opponent) is probably going to be the toughest team in the whole tournament," said point guard Jazlin Barker, who has attended the past two national championships.

She has a bronze medal from last year's competition, so what's left to accomplish?

"Any medal ahead of it, but preferably gold," she said with the quickness she displays in pushing the ball up the floor or spinning away from defenders.

Barker said there is "a lot" of unfinished business from last year's competition after watching a late lead slip away in the semifinal.

"Defence is going to be key," she said. "We should come out on top, we just have to play hard."

Connolly is taking the team to its third straight national championship, having finished fifth in 2014 and third in 2015.

"Five, three, one, I think that's how the natural progression goes," Connolly joked Monday. "The first year we were kind of happy to be there and a little overwhelmed by the stage. Last year, we played as well anybody and could have won the darn thing. This year, we feel we have a good, fighting chance at winning a national championship, the first ever in P.E.I. basketball history."

The team has a deeper bench, with its core of Barker, Ashley Moss and Jenea Barrett having been to two previous nationals.

"We started talking about having a special season early in the year because this core group is a very talented group and very capable of beating anyone on a given day," Connolly said.

The tournament is being held in Windsor, Ont., and is somewhat of a homecoming for Scarborough's Barker, Toronto's Barrett and Milcania Diaz-Rojas.

Barker said it's about a four-hour drive from home, but friends and family are making the trek to watch her play for the first time in years.

"I'm going to love it. I'm going to do the best I can."

The team flew to Toronto on Tuesday morning, took a shuttle to Windsor and practised at a gym. Today, they get a practice at the facility the tournament will be held in before tonight's awards banquet. 


What - The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association women's basketball championship.

When - Thursday to Saturday.

Where - Windsor, Ont.

Thursday's first-round schedule. Teams' seeds are in parenthesis. All times are Atlantic:

2 p.m. - Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks (3) vs. Vancouver Island University Mariners (6).

4 p.m. - Humber Hawks (2) vs. St. Mary's Lightning (7).

7 p.m. - Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy (1) vs. St. Clair Saints (8).

9:15 p.m. - Holland College Hurricanes (4) vs. Nomades de Montmorency (5)

Did you know - The last time a team won, which was not from the Quebec conference, was in 2005 – Concordia University College of Alberta.

Looking ahead - The Guardian will preview the Hurricanes men's team in Thursday's print edition and online at

Organizations: Holland College, Concordia University College of Alberta, Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks Vancouver Island University Mariners

Geographic location: Quebec, Sainte-Foy, Windsor Toronto P.E.I.

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