The Gee-Gees women's basketball team may be the Garnet and Grey squad with the most air miles at the end of 2018. After taking a team trip to Togo in April to help build a basketball court, the Gee-Gees are kicking off the 2018-19 season with a ten-day trip to Costa Rica which will include three games against NCAA competition.
The Gee-Gees will face Iowa State on Saturday and Sunday, followed by a game against Maryland Eastern Shore on Monday.
This August marks the third straight year that uOttawa's women's basketball team is travelling to Costa Rica. Head coach Andy Sparks was clear on the benefits for his team.
"This kind of opportunity is a team-building opportunity for us as much as anything which is a good way to start the year. In the games, our job is always to compete down there. The nature of the competition there is to play everybody tough. Regardless of what the score is we go out and compete and get a good team experience that way."
Notably, the 2018-19 Gee-Gees will see the return of OUA All-Star Sarah Besselink for her fifth-year season. The Kingston, Ont. product and Human Kinetics student averaged 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2016-17.
"It's about the team bonding first and foremost, and for me as a leader it's very important to get to know my teammates off the court," says Besselink. The team will also enjoy whitewater rafting and a volcano excursion during its first few days in Costa Rica.
"The trip is definitely also about basketball," Besselink continues. "We're going to see some tough competition and this early exhibition allows us to see where we're at now."
The veteran guard bolsters the lineup of 10 returning players from the squad that reached the OUA semifinals in 2017-18. The addition of four first-years who will make the trip to Costa Rica has the team eyeing another deep playoff run in 2018-19.
"We've had a pretty busy summer, we feel like the things that we've worked on we will have a chance to see working in the games," says Sparks who is entering his eleventh season as the Gee-Gees head coach. "I think this team has the pieces – our point guard play and our post play are very solid. We're still young but not so young that we won't be able to compete."