– Craig Hagerman, staff

Although basketball fans may feel a sense of withdrawals without the National Basketball Association playing this year, they should find solace in the fact that the OUA season is set to start Friday.

While the Lady Hawks are getting ready to kick off their season, it seems this year may be one where improvement and development will be the name of the game.

The ladies are coming off a strong season last year in which they finished at a a respectable 15-7 and saw a lot of strengths in their play, says co-captain Christa Mancino.

“Last season we had a strong defensive year which helped us shut down strong offensive teams such as Western and pull out wins when we needed them most,” Mancino said.

Coming into this year, however, the Golden Hawks will have an almost entirely new roster. In fact, ten of the twelve players who took to the court during the team’s pre-season schedule are in either their first or second year with the team.

“With so many new faces joining the Hawks the last two years, we need to learn how to play together and play for each other,” said head coach Paul Falco.

On top of a very youth-oriented team, the Hawks will also be without one of their senior players as co-captain Amber Hills continues to nurse a back injury she suffered last season.

With Hills out for the next couple months, the team will have to weather an early storm until she can make her return. This doesn’t help the cause as this year the team lost three very important pieces of last year’s team to graduation.

Captains Mallory Kohlmeier, Renata Adamczyk and post grad Megan Grant all played out their final year last season and the team will now have to look upon others to match the production of these ladies.

One player who may be up for this is rookie forward Shelby Kurt, who has played very strong during the Hawks pre-season and will be a player to watch this season.

“So far she has got the league talking about her strong offensive play in pre-season. It is indeed impressive how well she has thus far adjusted to the level of play in the CIS,” said Mancino.

Shelby is from Waterloo and transferred to Laurier from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, where she was recruited to play softball, after originally being recruited to play basketball out of high school. Shelby has also played basketball for Team Ontario in the past, which has Falco excited about this season.

“Shelby Kurt has also had some impressive offensive games in the pre-season and it will be interesting to see her develop over the course of the year,” Falco said.

So, although there seems to be a lot of adversity facing the team as they begin this season that has not put a damper on the spirit of the team by any means. As head coach Paul Falco sees it: “It will be very important for us to show steady improvement month by month. If we can do that, we should be in the thick of it come February.”

The Golden Hawks kick off their season this weekend with a Toronto swing in which they will face the Ryerson Rams on Friday and then the Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday.

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