By Dan Plouffe
Back in Elizabeth Roach’s high school years, if you lined up the players on her team, or even watched a game of theirs, not many would have picked her out as a particularly special talent – her current coach included.
“She wasn’t a scorer, she wasn’t overly tall or long,” reflects Carleton Ravens women’s basketball coach Taffe Charles, who likely would have passed Roach right over if he hadn’t had his eye on recruiting another player from her team. “She’s kind of unassuming, but when I saw her play more and more, I realized that she really knew how to play the game of basketball.
“Now she’s one of the best players on a pretty good team. Her basketball IQ is the best on our team.”
Roach is averaging 28 minutes and eight points per game as a starting guard for the #5-nationally ranked Ravens, who downed the Ottawa Gee-Gees 68-50 at the Jan. 23 MBNA Capital Hoops Classic at Scotiabank Place.
“She’s done a really good job in surprising me,” Charles highlights. “Two years in, I wasn’t really sure she was going to be able to do it. But I’ve learned a lot about her. She’s quite the kid, and she’s a great player.”
Roach concedes that there’s very little “awe factor” in her game, but she thanks her coaches with the Gloucester-Cumberland Basketball Association and St. Matthew Catholic High School for the solid foundation they provided her in the sport.
“It’s a great city to play basketball in,” says Roach, a fourth-year political science student. “The culture at Carleton is great. I’m really lucky to have had Taffe as a coach.”
Family affair for ballers
Players Roach grew up with are littered throughout both the Carleton and Ottawa U lineups. The connections run deep for the Orleans native – Roach’s parents, as well as those of Gee-Gees star Kellie Ring and former Raven Jessica Resch (whose brother Gavin is also a Raven) all played university ball together.
“They all threw us into basketball when we were really young,” Roach mentions, noting that the experience of playing in the Capital Hoops Classic in her hometown is even more special since her friends are involved. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s also very competitive. You’ve played with and against them forever, so it’s kind of personal.”
Eye on a national title
Carleton now sits in first place in the Ontario University Athletics east division with a 14-3 record. The Ravens got the upper hand in their first matchup against 13-4 Gee-Gees – who continue to excel despite three fifth-year veterans graduating last year – but they know it’ll be a tough match later this year once injured Ottawa U scoring leader Jenna Gilbert returns.
Carleton boasts a strong veteran lineup that is seeking an improved playoff performance, having lost the 2012 OUA bronze medal match last and the 2011 national quarter-final.
“Our goal is obviously to win nationals,” Roach emphasizes. “I think we have a really good shot.”
Ravens men escape at Classic
The Carleton and Ottawa U men’s teams are also both putting together solid seasons. Ottawa (13-4) gave Carleton a fairly big scare in what was truly a Classic for the first time in several years, although the 16-1 Ravens prevailed 63-58.
Carleton will be chasing what would be a record ninth national title (all in the span of 11 years) when they host the Canadian university Final 8 tournament March 8-10 at Scotiabank Place.
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