CAPILANO University women's basketball head coach Ramin Sadaghiani, a rookie in the Pacwest league, wasn't sure what to expect from his team after they lost their top scorer and rebounder in just the third game of the season.
In that game second year forward Hayley Boulier, on her way to becoming the dominant post player in the league, went down with a serious knee injury. She hasn't played since and is now waiting for an MRI. The Blues won the game to move to 30 on the season but things were about to change and Sadaghiani wasn't sure which way they would go.
"I really didn't know how we would respond," the coach told the North Shore News this week. "I knew that we had the depth and stuff to do it but I just didn't know how the girls would handle that situation."
So which way did the Blues go? They just kept going up. Capilano, in fact, won their next five games, including two recent victories over second place Douglas College and third place Quest University. The league is now shut down for the holiday break and when it fires up again in January the Blues will head into the winter term with a sparkling 8-0 record and the No. 5 spot in the national rankings.
"We could have gone either way," said Sadaghiani, "but obviously the girls responded and a lot of girls have stepped up and filled in those rebounds and points that Hayley got us."
The player who has played the biggest role in filling in those minutes and numbers is Lauren Seabrook, a second-year Carson Graham grad who played one year of CIS ball with Western before an injury suffered in a car accident forced her to sit out last season.
"She's double digit rebounds every night, she's been really working the glass hard which is important with Hayley out," said Sadaghiani. "She's taking more of an aggressive approach on offence. We need her to be more productive offensively so she's being a lot more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor and also doing a job on the defensive end."
Seabrook was named Pacwest basketball athlete of the week after scoring 20 points with six rebounds and two assists in Capilano's big win over Quest. Sadaghiani intended to bring her along slowly but that wasn't an option anymore after Boulier's injury.
"(Lauren is) getting her legs under her, getting her conditioning back," said Sadaghiani. "I've known Lauren since high school, she was a very good high school player, so I knew that she had the ability to do it. It's just taking a year off you lose things like your touch around the basket, your timing, your conditioning, things like that. All those things are coming back and she's getting better every game."
The Blues actually went back-to-back on athlete of the week honours with point guard Jenn Bodnar claiming the award one week after Seabrook. Bodnar scored 20 points with eight rebounds and four assists in Capilano's recent win over Langara and she currently sits second in the league in assists-per-game average.
"She's a fifth-year vet so she brings a lot of leadership to the court," said Sadaghiani. "She's a very aggressive player offensively and defensively, she's been there for many years now so she knows what it takes to compete at that level. Down the stretch she's someone that we can rely on because of the experience that she has."
Capilano's back-to-back athlete of the week honours demonstrate the collective approach they're taking to fill the gaps left by Boulier's injury. No one on the team ranks in the top-10 in the league in points-per-game average.
"It was just kind of neat to see how we dealt with the adversity. The thing that's impressive about it is that different people are scoring on different nights," said Sadaghiani. "It's really been spread around. . . . It's just been a bunch of people and we're playing everybody a lot. We average about 10 players who get double digit minutes per game. We go pretty deep into the bench."
The Blues don't know if Boulier will be back this season but it appears they'll be tough to beat either way.
"Before teams focused on Hayley but now they need to focus on two or three people," said Sadaghiani. "We don't know but if she does come back it's kind of like another boost into our lineup. It's giving opportunities for other girls to play extra minutes."
After getting over the initial shock of the injury, the Blues have turned it into a challenge.
"We care about Hayley so initially we were concerned about her health, about the injury, but now that we're kind of over that I think that it's kind of brought us together," said Sadaghiani. "We have a lot of confidence in our locker room with everybody. We talk about the depth of our team all the time and being there for each other. . . . An injury like that can literally crush a team but I think we've really done a good job of dealing with it."
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The basketball Blues women are leading the way for Capilano with their first-place showing heading into the holiday break. On the men's side the Blues are 3-5 an sitting in sixth place in the league, holding on to the final playoff spot. On the volleyball court the Blues women head into the break with a 4-8 record to sit in fifth place in the league while the men are 6-6, good enough for fourth place in the Pacwest league.