For the McMaster Marauders’ women’s basketball team, this season was supposed to be filled with optimism and opportunity.

After an 80-67 loss to Queen’s Gaels at home this weekend, the team is staring at a 1-4 record. Expectations were not incredibly high for the squad, but the record has put a damper on the locker room.

“We said going into the Queen’s game that we need to play some desperate basketball. We need a win,” said head coach Theresa Burns. “We didn’t respond the same way in the Queen’s game as we did in the Carleton game.”

The Maroon and Grey put forth an uninspired effort against the Gaels, giving up a 31-point third quarter as an exclamation point on their futility. The season has turned into a similar story game-in and game-out: the young players are producing, playing inspired basketball and taking every opportunity to grow as a team.

Veteran play continues to be an issue. Hailey Milligan’s play is a measuring stick for how the squad will perform and through five games her play has been inconsistent. Against Queen’s, Milligan logged nine minutes while scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds. Burns had no explanation for her veteran’s play.

“[Milligan] was in foul trouble and it was just one of those games. Her level of play just wasn’t there,” said Burns.

The 6’ 3” forward also struggled in the game against Ottawa, logging only 16 minutes while battling foul trouble.

As the team looks ahead, Milligan will be expected to carry a heavier share of the load. With an already undersized roster, the team cannot afford to lose their rebounding anchor.

Picking up the slack is rookie guard Danielle Boiago. The Hamilton, Ont. product put together her most impressive performance of the season, finishing three steals shy of a triple-double.

The freshman also dropped 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading the team in both categories.Her play on Saturday was a ray of hope for the team since Boiago has been unable to turn in strong, consistent play.

She finished the pre-season as the leading scorer on the team but when league play began, her play took a turn for the worse. Her ability to finish at the rim with high efficiency was gone and Boiago looked to avoid contact on lay-ups.

McMaster’s rookie phenom put those habits behind her and found a knack for getting to the free throw line against Queen’s. Boiago finished with a game-high 7-10 free throw shooting performance.

Burns called her young guard’s fear of taking contact a first-year issue and praised the guard’s coachability after the loss.

As the final games of OUA East competition approach, the Marauders are left with more questions than answers compared to the beginning of the season. McMaster is without a team leader with Milligan not performing well. Their most consistent player, Isabel Ormond, is battling a shoulder injury, and the star rookie guard is suffering a serious case of first-year blues.

McMaster hits the road on Nov. 30 to face the East leading Toronto Varsity Blues. The Blues pose the biggest challenge of the season next to the Carleton Ravens and a major storyline going forward will be how the Marauders respond to a game where many may write the young squad off.

The Ryerson Rams will also be hosting the Maroon and Grey. Mac handed the Rams a hefty preseason loss, forcing 32 turnovers in the game. Ryerson is healthy and refuelled and will look to avenge the loss.

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