Down by 19 points at halftime, the Gee-Gees women's basketball staged a dramatic comeback to secure a U SPORTS bronze medal at the National Championships in March. Fifth-year forward Jen Crowe, walked off of the floor for the final time content with everything that led her and the team to that moment.
Reflecting on her career in Garnet and Grey, Crowe sees incredible growth from both a personal and a team perspective.
Like most varsity athletes, Crowe started playing her sport when she was very young. As early as the second grade, Crowe remembers playing basketball at the most competitive level available to her. Her father, Ed, played basketball at the University of New Brunswick in 1980s, coming by her love for the sport honestly. Crowe fondly remembers watching his men's league games, along with her brother.
"We were always in the gym," said Crowe. "We were always the last ones to leave too."
Crowe, a native of St-Bruno, Que., played a myriad of sports before basketball emerged as her primary focus in high school. Afterwards, Crowe attended Dawson College for CÉGEP, where she competed for an RSEQ title playing for one of the most dominant programs in the province. While at Dawson, her path to committing to the University of Ottawa was not direct, in fact, it mostly happened by chance.
Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks was attending a game of hers while recruiting an opponent, after an impressive showing, he spoke with Crowe, pitching what the program could offer.
"He showed a lot of support for school," she remembers. "He used to be a teacher and made it very clear that he was happy I wanted to study engineering."
Sparks was always supportive of academic ambition and as she made her decision to come to Ottawa, she quickly embraced that she would be receiving a true student-athlete experience.
Crowe soaked up everything she could in her first year, understanding the intricacies of leadership and responsibilities on the team. As the program grew and built to a national contender, those early lessons came in handy when she was now in the veteran leadership role.
"It's funny going through the transition from a rookie to a vet, that your role just changes completely. In your fifth-year you have to be more of a leader and be more vocal and take care of everyone else – make sure everyone who's new knows what's going on."
Crowe is happy she got the chance to step into a leadership role, believing that it was a great learning lesson for herself. "Transitioning through that has helped me a lot," she said. "Learning the responsibility that comes as you go. Yes, you're getting more minutes, but now you have all of these expectations and you have to handle all those expectations."
Everything that she has learned as a leader on and off the court was put to the test in the second half of that bronze medal game against Saskatchewan. The comeback and close in that game is Crowe's favourite moment looking back as a Gee-Gee.
Crowe highlights how mentally draining the tournament was, particularly after a heartbreaking loss to Laval in the semifinals, and the bad first half against Saskatchewan.
It was in the locker room at halftime when she knew she needed to help her team persevere, they were not going to have their season end in disappointing fashion.
"We all talked a bit, and Coach talked as we regrouped and realized that we worked too hard throughout the year and to let it end that way wasn't really an option. We have such a good bond on our team that we couldn't do that."
The kind of lessons learned in experiences like that will surely serve her well in the next phase of life. Crowe will close her time at the University of Ottawa with a degree in Electrical Engineering degree, which will open a fair number of doors for her.
"I honestly believe if I've made it through my program while playing basketball and had success in both, then I'm not nervous to go into the field," said Crowe. "Everything I've learned as far as becoming a leader, the work ethic I've created as a Gee-Gee, and my time management skills that had to come to me, I'm not too worried about starting a new job."
"I'll just go in and work hard," she said, as she has done on the court for the last five seasons. "As long as you're the hardest worker, its difficult not to succeed."
This kind of work ethic has brought good deal of success to Crowe, including a shiny national bronze medal that has created memories that will last a lifetime for her and her teammates.
"At the end, watching the team come together and seeing how happy everyone was and seeing all the hard work pay off. It was great to finish on a win and great to do it was such an amazing group of women."