Laurentian Lady Vees basketball alumni recall championship wins
'We have lots of memories as players and it has nothing to do with winning'
Alumni of Laurentian University's last national championship women's basketball team from 25 years ago recently spent some time remembering a time when they were at the top of their game.
There was plenty of laughter — and plenty of tears too.
Former player Shirlene MacLean won the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CIAU) title — first as a player with the Laurentian Lady Vees in 1990, then as an assistant coach the following year when Laurentian University captured its last national women's basketball title.
"Most of the time we don't even talk about the championships," said MacLean.
"We talk about everything else: all the off-the-court stuff, some of the crazy things that happen. We have lots of memories as players and it has nothing to do with winning."
MacLean chuckled when she recounted getting knocked out after taking an elbow in the face from teammate Chantal St. Martin, who was rebounding a ball.
"We still giggle about it," said MacLean.
But laughter quickly turned to reflection when the women recalled team members who have since passed away.
Sue Foy died after a car crash in 2003 and guard Carolyn (Swords) Sturgess died from cancer in 2009.
And when the conversation focused on former head coach Peter Ennis, the women tried to hold back tears — but broke down anyway.
Ennis died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 50.
"He was a father figure to all the girls. He took care of us on and off the court. It was very difficult to lose him," said former Lady Vee Chantal St. Martin, who still finds it difficult to talk about her former coach.
"When we won the championships, part of me was doing it for Peter. It was my last year of basketball and a good part of me was doing it for him ... we knew he was sick at that point," said St. Martin.
Angie MacDonald was an assistant coach during the two championship years in 1990 and 1991. She was also a player in the 1970s when the Lady Vees won five consecutive national titles.
MacDonald said she transferred to Laurentian University from Windsor in her final year of eligibility to be part of a winning program.
"Ironically, my last year of playing was Peter Ennis' first year of coaching at Laurentian," said Macdonald.
We finally won the big one!- Angie MacDonald
In 1990 the Lady Vees were considered giant slayers, defeating the University of Calgary women's team and ending their 69 game winning streak, the longest in Canadian college history.
"We finally won the big one," said MacDonald, calling the win "monumental."
She attributed the team's success to teamwork.
"All the players on the team put their egos aside," said MacDonald. "We played for each other ... the focus was on to win as a team."
1990-1991 CIAU Championship team
Laurentian Lady Vees defeated the University of Regina Cougars in overtime 79-72
Chantal St. Martin
1989-1990 CIAU Championship team
Laurentian Lady Vees defeated the University of Calgary Dinosaurs 74-65 and ended the longest winning streak of women's college basketball history of 69 consecutive wins.
Chantal St. Martin