Kelly Donald came back to Dalhousie for one reason: To win an Atlantic University Sport championship.
The fifth-year guard, who is back after a one-year hiatus, is hoping to help the Tigers raise their first AUS women’s basketball banner since 2001 at Dalplex this weekend.
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Donald, a former first-team all-star, has fallen short at the tournament four times, watching the Memorial Sea-Hawks and Cape Breton Capers dominate the event. Memorial has five titles since 2001. Cape Breton has the other two.
“I feel I’ve accomplished all of my individual goals, but the main goal that everyone fights for, and only one team gets, is to win a championship,” Donald said.
“This is my last chance to win it and if I don’t, it’s always going to be in the back of my mind, looking back and wondering about the moment.”
That’s the case for many of Dal’s key contributors. This could be the swan song for first-team all-star guard Jenna Kaye and second-team all-star centre Laurie Girdwood, not to mention Donald, Brianna Orr and Leah Girdwood.
But that experience will be key for the Tigers, who finished third in the regular season with a 14-6 record.
They missed a chance at a quarter-final bye and now must play three games in three days if they want to raise the AUS banner.
“When the game is on the line, I think those (veteran) players will step up,” said Donald, whose Tigers open against the sixth-ranked Acadia Axewomen on Friday at 6 p.m.
The Tigers went 1-3 against first-ranked Memorial and 2-2 against second-ranked Cape Breton. The only other team they lost to was the fourth-ranked St. Francis Xavier X-Women (14-6) on the final day of the regular season. They enjoyed a 10-game winning streak as part of a 12-1 run at mid-season.
The last time the Tigers hosted the tournament — in 2001 — they won. Factoring in the talent on her team and home-court advantage, Donald said that not only is this her last shot at a championship, it’s also her best.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” she said.