No Tilk, no troubles

Photograph by Winston Chow
[C]oming off of an exciting OUA quarterfinal appearance last season, the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team has begun preparations for their highly anticipated 2012-2013 season.

This season brings plenty of firsts. The first season at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the first season with a brand new coach, and, the first season without the Rams top two scorers from last year.

That season (2011-12) the Rams posted a record of 11 wins and 11 losses, a .500 season good enough to finish fifth in the OUA East Division with 22 points.

Named head coach of the women’s team in June, Carly Clarke, begins her career as a Ram looking to continue the team’s successes, as they have made the OUA quarter-finals in each of their past four seasons.

“Last year they had a great season, there are a lot of positives to build on,” says Clarke.

Clarke held the previous role of head coach at the University of Prince Edward Island, where she spent three seasons. In addition to her duties with the Rams, Clarke is the head coach of the Canadian Cadet Women’s national team, which she recently led to a bronze medal at the FIBA U17 World Championships.

Clarke will face no easy road however, now that the Rams have lost three-time OUA All-Star, Ashley MacDonald.

MacDonald finished second in the OUA in scoring and sixth in the CIS last season. She is a three-time OUA All-Star and Ryerson’s Female Athlete of the Year and team MVP for two consecutive seasons.

Not only did Clarke lose a go-to player in MacDonald, but also the team’s second leading scorer, fifth year veteran, and OUA All-Star, Angela Tilk.

It was the first preseason game for the girls on the brand new Coca Cola court, where the Rams beat York University 63-47. Tilk scored a team high 30 points and 18 rebounds, but after the game, it was announced that she fully ruptured her Achilles tendon.

Tilk will miss the entire season.

Tilk says that even though this injury prevents her presence on the court until mid-summer next year, it doesn’t affect it off the court.

“I’ll definitely be around for a more leadership role on the side – kind of like an assistant coach without being an assistant coach,” Tilk says.

Tilk, who is very involved in the Ryerson Athletic community, serves as an academic mentor, helping student-athletes meet their academic needs, and as a Rising Ram, travelling to different schools around the community encouraging involvement in sports.

“She leads by example with her work ethic, not just as a basketball player but what she does academically, in the community, and the amount of time she puts into Ryerson athletics,” says Clarke.

Missing two dominating players on the court this year, the Rams will need to find a way to score to stay successful.

“After losing two OUA All-Stars from our starting lineup, we’ll have to look to different athletes in different ways for people to step up, and for our team to contribute as a whole to make-up for them,” says Clarke.

Tilk has complete confidence in her teammates’ attitudes and talent that they wont miss a beat.

“Now is just the time for someone else to step up,” says Tilk.

Fourth year veteran, Kelcey Wright, was a dominating offensive force last season for the Rams, and one of the team captains alongside Tilk and MacDonald.

“Kelcey Wright was the team’s third leading scorer last year so we will be looking for her to contribute, not just scoring – but to be a playmaker and a leader on the floor,” says Clarke.

Being one of only three, fourth year veterans, Wright is no stranger to leading the Rams.

“I don’t think my role has changed much from previous years, I’m still going to be a leader, I’ll be looked at for scoring and rebounds,” Wright says.

With a team of young players, their time to rise to the occasion is now.

“I think a lot of the younger girls are going to have to step up now and that may be too early for them but I have confidence that each of them can do it,” says Wright.

It certainly helps that the Rams welcome a strong recruiting class for this upcoming season.

Cassandra Nofuente, a guard from Toronto, brings strong playmaking and scoring ability that Clarke says can definitely help the team. Mississauga native, C’airah Gabriel Robinson, joins the Rams with a good understanding of the game that Clarke says will certainly earn her minutes. Centre, Jill Semple, out of Etobicoke will provide the Rams with good size and athleticism.

In order to have a successful season, Clarke will train these newcomers into a strong contending squad underlined by her core values: accountability, commitment, and teamwork.

“I’m building a vision towards building championships,” Clarke says.

The Rams kick off their 2012-2013 season in a home opener against Lakehead University on November 9th, at the Coca Cola Court.