by Duncan Forbes
Who can fill the void left by Devon Stedman, who is out with a season-ending knee injury?
Tigers star big man Devon Stedman had to be taken off the court last weekend after suffering a knee injury that could potentially end his basketball career. He was dominant in the post on both ends of the court, and gave the Tigers the ability to stretch the floor with a consistent stroke from long range.
Now that he's gone, Coach Plato will have a few options to look at going forward into the playoff push. It'd be hard to see Sven Stammberger's minutes not increase with Stedman's departure, and it'd be even harder to say that he doesn't deserve it. In the two games since Stedman's injury, Stammberger has averaged 18.5 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes. Another player that could move into the spotlight is rookie forward Kevin Duong. Although he doesn't fill up a flashy stat sheet, Duong has provided a strong defensive effort and he uses his high basketball IQ to his advantage.
Will someone emerge as a true third option offensively?
It's no secret that Courtney Thompson is the number one option offensively for the Tigers, she's a star and leads the AUS in scoring (21.7 points per game). Not far behind her is dynamic forward Tessa Stammberger, who's scoring is slightly down this year (10.7 per game) from last year. She can provide scoring in bunches for the Tigers and she can play anywhere from the one to the five. The real question is who can the Tigers rely on if these two are having an off night?
Behind Thompson and Stammberger, the Tigers have four players (Ainsley MacIntyre, Kristy Moore, Rebecca Nuttal and Robbi Daley) who average between 6.7 and 4.7 points per game. This is a good problem for Coach Stammberger to have, as she can rely on virtually all of her mainly eight-player rotation to put the ball in the basket. The Tigers have been playing a true team game all season long, but perhaps it will take one of the Tigers role players to elevate their game to the next level for the Tigers to take it to the next level as a team come playoff time.
Can the Tigers be considered
The Tigers men's volleyball team has the biggest national profile of any Tigers team this year. If you looked at their record, there would be little question as to if the Tigers were truly a national championship-calibre team. They're currently ranked seventh in the country and they sport an impressive 9-1 record. The fact of the matter is that as good as the Tigers have been, the rest of the AUS simply hasn't. The Tigers have steamrolled their Atlantic Canadian opponents thus far, and their only regular season loss was a 3-2 loss against the Laval Rouge et Or in late November.
The Tigers recently went 3-1 at the Alden Cup in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they competed against some of the best teams that the CIS has to offer. Their lone loss in the tournament came at the hands of Brandon University, who are ranked fifth in the CIS, just ahead of the Tigers. They made a big statement this weekend going 3-0 at final AUS-RSEQ interlock event of the year this weekend at Laval. The team boasts an impressive core of veterans including Bryan Duquette, Connor Maessen, Kristen O'Brien, Alex Dempsey and Jonathan MacDonald. This is the Tigers best chance in recent memory to make a name for themselves, and don't be surprised in the least if Dan Ota's squad improves on last year's sixth-place finish when they (hopefully) head to the CIS championship in Saskatchewan.
Which Tigers team will we see in the second half of the season?
The Tigers lost their first five games to start the 2014-2015 season. After going 0-4 at the first AUS-RSEQ interlock event, they lost 3-1 against UNB in their first regular season match against AUS competition. It was a rough start for a Tigers team that had placed fourth in the country just a season before, and they only won two sets during the five-game slide.
Since then, the Tigers are 5-1 and look like a completely new team. They didn't drop a single set in any of their four victories, and their lone loss in the streak came against the Saint Mary's Huskies, who are first in the AUS with an 8-4 record. Keep in mind, however, that the three teams that the Tigers have beaten on this stretch (UdeM, Acadia and CBU) have a combined record of 6-30. Although the wins are impressive, they will need to show that they can beat better teams when it matters.
Their next three matches will pit them against Memorial and Moncton, all of whom have worse records than the Tigers. They will need to make the most of this advantageous schedule and improve on their 5-6 record as they look towards the playoffs. Make sure to mark February 5 on your calendar, as the Tigers will face the Saint Mary's Huskies in the final game of the season. This could easily be a preview of the AUS final and will be a good barometer to gauge the Tigers chances heading into playoffs.
Can Corbin Boes lead the Tigers into the final playoff spot?
Corbin Boes has established himself as the number one option between the pipes in his first season with the Tigers. He's made an AUS-best 33 saves per game for the Tigers, who rely on big performances on the defensive end to compensate for their AUS-low mark of 2.11 goals per game.
The Tigers 6-14-1 record make it seem like the playoffs would be out of the question. Right now, they sit three points back of the University of Moncton for the final playoff spot. They both have seven games remaining and they face each other twice before the season ends. They both will have an equally difficult schedule, with Dal and Moncton facing teams with average winning percentages of .594 and .587, respectively.
If either Dal or Moncton can sweep the two-game series between the teams, it could very well be the deciding factor as to which team sneaks into the AUS playoffs, where anything could happen.
Will the offence become more
balanced in the second half?
The trio of Elizabeth MacArthur, Lisa Maclean and Maggie Beaton have carried the load offensively for the Tigers thus far. They've combined for 42 points in 17 games and they've been accountable on the defensive end, with a combined +8 plus/minus rating.
Their combined 42 points account for over 53% of the offensive output among Tigers forwards. Their mark of 2.25 goals per game is ranked fifth (of seven teams) in the AUS, while their average of 25 shots per game is ranked sixth. Their offense has been a key factor in their victories, as they've averaged 3.5 goals per game in victories, while they only average 1.5 goals per game in losses.
The Tigers are holding on to the last playoff spot in the AUS though with one more win they could be fourth in the AUS. Jessica Severeyns has seemed to establish herself as the Tigers best option in net, with a 2.42 GAA and .927 save percentage. The confidence that the Tigers now enjoy between the pipes should hopefully translate into a more free-flowing offense. If forwards like Sarah Robichaud, Jesse Reitveld and Courtney Sheedy can add depth to the Tigers offensive attack, they will be able to wear down defences more throughout the game.