With a 9-4 record, one would expect that McMaster’s women’s basketball team would be in a good spot – standings wise. Currently, Mac sits fourth in the OUA West. Ahead of them is Windsor at 12-1, Laurier with a record of 11-2, and Western with a 10-2 record.

On the Marauders’ heels is Brock, with a 7-6  record and Lakehead at 6-6. The OUA West is as competitive as ever, and McMaster is headed into its most important stretch of the season.

On Jan. 18, Mac travels to Waterloo, Ont. to take on the Laurier Golden Hawks, a team who ascended to No. 9 in the CIS top-ten. There’s a relatively easy game against the Guelph Gryphons, who are in rebuilding mode with a new coach and young roster.

But Mac will have to host the Western Mustangs after that, who walloped the Marauders in the last game of 2013.

In order to get a first-round playoff bye – a huge advantage in an ultra-competitive division – McMaster will have to sweep those three games to give themselves a shot. More importantly, Mac will want to be able to avoid Windsor for as long as they can.

The Marauders have not matched up well with the Lancers, something that was reconfirmed on Jan. 11 when Windsor beat Mac 83-44. The 39-point thrashing was the worst loss since Jan. 8, 2011, when Western beat an injured Maroon bunch, 89-39.

The road only does not become easier after those games because they have to travel to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Thunderwolves have a major home court advantage, given teams have to fly there, play back-to-back games, and perform in front of a raucous crowd at the aptly-named Thunderdome.

McMaster’s five-game stretch is one of the most important in recent memory. The Marauders have inched towards becoming a top-ten team and certainly have been in the conversation for being on the bubble for the CIS national tournament. But they have not played consistently against the best teams.

They lost in the final seconds to a strong Ottawa Gee-Gee team, hung tough with the Saint Mary’s Huskies in exhibition play, and dominated Brock – a team that started the year ranked No. 7.

The blowout losses to Western and Windsor will stick around come tournament time if Mac wants to make a wild card bid.

The run back to nationals starts this weekend. If McMaster defeats Laurier and Western, they will put themselves back in the conversation. Lose one, or worse, two, Mac will be facing an uphill battle and have to nearly win-out the season to end the four season national tournament drought.

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