Powerhouse Rouge et Or dominate USPORTS awards but settle for silver

Entering the USPORTS National Championships as the top seed, the Rouge et Or from l’Université de Laval (Québec) were looking for their first title in women’s basketball. Heading into the tournament, the program experienced a remarkable run of momentum. Capturing their third straight RSEQ regular season crown, the Rouge et Or endured only one regular season loss, while setting a program record for most points in a season with an astounding 1,187, an average of 74.18 per game.

Just as dominant in the postseason, the Rouge et Or defeated the Concordia Stingers by a 20-point margin (75-55), enjoying their first Conference Championship since 2011. Aiming for their first-ever national championship, the Rouge et Or last appeared in the finals back in 2017, opposing conference rival McGill in an all-RSEQ matchup.

Khaleann Caron-Goudreau, a former competitor at the University of Texas, where she sported a blonde mane, added to the sense of momentum. Featured on “Sportsnet Connected”, merely days before opening tip-off, testament to the Rouge et Or’s status as a national power, simultaneously raising awareness of the game’s quality.

Leading the RSEQ conference with 1.7 blocks per game, the presence of Caron-Goudreau, who was also a Conference First-Team All-Star, was highly valuable in the paint, grabbing 9.4 rebounds per game, placing third in the conference, respectively. Bestowed with the National Defensive Player of the Year Award, her achievements added to the impressive haul of hardcourt hardware. Guillaume Giroux, who was also part of the Sportsnet feature, grabbed the USPORTS Coach of the Year honors.

Capturing the Nan Copp Award, given to the most outstanding player in USPORTS women’s basketball, Sarah-Jane Marois capped off a sparkling regular season for the Rouge et Or, displaying a superlative statistical consistency. Despite ranking only seventh in the RSEQ Conference with 13 points per game, she was the key cog for an offensive attack that propelled the Rouge et Or towards a one-loss season.

With Marois’ 3.6 assists placing fourth in the conference, while her solid three-point percentage of 41 established her as second best, she topped all competitors with a sterling 94.6 free throw shooting percentage, a well-rounded display of playmaking brilliance. Worth noting, she was the only member of the Rouge et Or to garner First Team All-Canadian status.

En route to the national championship game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (located inside the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens), the Rouge et Or vanquished the likes of tournament host, the Ryerson Rams (73-51) and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (60-56). Challenging the Hamilton, Ontario-based McMaster Marauders in the gold medal game, whose tournament opponents included the Concordia Stingers and the Saskatchewan Huskies, this marked their first-ever appearance in the championship game.

Worth noting, the Marauders also featured their own national award winner. Receiving the Sylvia Sweeney Award, which represents USPORTS’ Student-Athlete Community Service honor, starting guard, and co-captain Hilary Hanaka, also earned Academic All-Canadian honors, respectively. Scoring 12 points, complemented by three assists and one steal, she also amassed 36 minutes on the court in a stunning 70-58 upset.

Caron-Gaudreau emerged as a critical component of the offense early on, racking up the first points for the Rouge et Or after going scoreless in the first three minutes. With Claudia Emond, the pride of Saguenay making back-to-back three pointers, the Rouge et Or boasted the 10-9 advantage late in the first. Marois would duplicate Emond’s precision from the three point line during the second quarter, as her team boasted a 30-23 lead, which would later stand as 33-27 at halftime.

A three-pointer by Linnaea Harper, followed by a layup saw the Marauders quickly trim their deficit to just one point. Employing a suffocating defense to restrain the Rouge et Or, Christina Buttenham managed a layup, allowing the Marauders to reclaim the lead. Serving as the game’s turning point, she would follow it up with a successful shot from the free throw line, claiming a 42-38 lead.

Displaying the mettle that made her National Player of the Year, Marois would reply with a three pointer, followed by a free throw that tied the game at 42-apiece. Complemented by Emond’s efficiency at the free throw line, the game changed leads frequently, before the Marauders enjoyed a ten-point run as the scoreboard read 64-54 in their favor, eventually placing the game out of reach. Linnaea Harper, who would gain Tournament MVP honors, excelled in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, posting eight points, to demoralize the favored Rouge et Or.

Despite only posting a 37.7 field goal percentage, the Marauders were solid at the free throw line, a key edge in the championship result. Caron-Goudreau amassed 35 minutes of time on the court, respectable 10 points, living up to her billing as Defensive Player of the Year. A beast on the hardcourt, nine defensive rebounds, gaining 12 in total, while intimidating the opposing offense with four blocks and two steals.

Recognized as the Player of the Game for the Rouge et Or, it marked the final honor in the collegiate career of Caron-Goudreau, while Christina Buttenham gained the same honor for the National Champions. The two would be joined by Marois as national championship game participants that gained Tournament All-Star stauts. Joining them were Summer Masikewich of the, Saskatchewan Huskies and Brooklyn McAlear-Fanus from the, Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Marois led all players with 39 minutes, racking up a game-high 21 points. With only 3 Rouge et Or players in double digits, as Claudia Emond also posted seven rebounds and two steals, complemented by 15 points. The trio of Caron-Gaudreau, Emond and Marios accounted for 79 percent of the points put up by the Rouge et Or.

Compared to the Marauders, their balanced attack saw four players in double digits, with Sarah Gates and Linnaea Harper each posting a team-best 18 points, providing the program with their first podium finish at the USPORTS Nationals since 1990, when they emerged with a bronze medal.

Female fighters prominent in Topps latest UFC trading card release

In the last year, Topps has made a significant breakthrough with the increasing number of female athletes featured on its trading card products. Starting in autumn 2013 with its card set commemorating the American contingent competing at the Sochi Winter Games; other female athletes were given the trading card treatment in 2014, as part of Topps annual Allen and Ginter plus World Wrestling Entertainment card releases.

With autumn marking hockey card season, Topps counters with its newest offering featuring the heroes from Ultimate Fighting Championship. A 200-card base set, UFC Champions consists of the most competitors from the women’s division in any one set.

The first card in the set featuring a member of the women’s division is number 9 as Jessica Andrade is featured. Following her at number 10 is Julianna Pena. Part of Team Rousey during the 18 season of The Ultimate Fighter, she would defeat Jessica Rakoczy in the season finale. Currently suffering from an injury to her right knee, her presence in the set can only help build the momentum for her comeback.

Gold variation on Ronda Rousey's trading card (Obtained from http://www.cardboardconnection.com/)

Gold variation on Ronda Rousey’s trading card (Obtained from http://www.cardboardconnection.com/)

Two other fighters from season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter are part of the set. Peggy Morgan, another member of Team Rousey, is known as the Daywalker. Featured on card number 57, Morgan lost to Jessamyn Duke in the season finale of Ultimate Fighter 18. Raquel Pennington, whose nickname is Rocky, graces card number 179. A member of Team Tate during the season, she defeated Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision in the season finale. Her first UFC fight after said finale came on March 15, 2014, suffering a loss to Jessica Andrade.

Women’s champion Ronda Rousey, quite possibly the most popular competitor in UFC can be found on card number 76. Only three of the four competitors that Rousey has defeated in UFC have also been given the cardboard treatment.

Liz Carmouche, the first-ever opponent of Rousey in the UFC can be found on card 119. One of Rousey’s biggest rivals, Miesha Tate, who was defeated by armbar submission on December 28, 2013, is on card 42. Of note, card 116 features Sara McMann, facing defeat in the first round on February 22, 2014. Canadian Alexis Davis, which elevated Rousey’s career MMA record to 10-0, was not featured

Rousey’s next opponent, Cat Zingano is on card 97. Ranked as one of the top five female MMA Fighters in the world, Zingano will challenge Rousey at UFC 182 on January 3, 2015. Another top ranked fighter in the set is Bethe Correia. Hailing from Brazil, she holds a 9-0 record in MMA. Card number 91 is where collectors can find her. Another Brazilian featured in the set is Amanda Nunes. On card 35, the Lioness of the Ring holds a 2-1 career mark in UFC. Her loss came to Cat Zingano at UFC 178 on September 27, 2014.

The fighters involved in one of the more controversial UFC women’s matches are both part of the set. Jessica Eye, whose October 19, 2013 victory over Sarah Kaufman was overturned due to testing positive for marijuana can be found on cards 106 and 133. Of note, Eye is looking for her first-ever UFC win, and is hoping to obtain it after a November 15, 2014 match against Leslie Smith.

Kaufman, the first Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion also earned the first-ever Hardcore Championship Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Having lost to Rousey in Strikeforce competitions, she has a 17-2 career mark.

Of note, the female fighters even make their way into the various insert sets. Of note, Rousey leads the way as she can be found in 9 different insert sets. Such sets include Autographs, Autographed Relics, Autographed Jumbo Fight Mats, Champions Single Belt, Champions Full Belt, Fight Night Highlights, Octagon Greats, Octagon Greats Autographed and Mat Relics.

Jessica Eye and Julianna Pena join Rousey in the Autographed insert cards. Part of the Autographed Relic inserts includes the likes of Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate. Of note, Pena is also part of the Autographed Jumbo Fight Mat Relics set.

Considering that in years past, the only women of the UFC that were featured on trading cards were the ring girls, the inclusion of so many fighters (especially with the insert sets) in its base set is an encouraging sign that the women’s division is a substantial part of UFC.