On Wednesday night, the Western Mustangs women's basketball team will host the Toronto Varsity Blues in their first round playoff matchup.
The Mustangs finished the regular season at 14–6, earning themselves the seventh seed going into the playoffs. The team did not lose a game from December 28 to February 12, going on a season-high nine-game win streak.
The Varsity Blues went 8–11 during the regular season, and won the one meeting between the two teams on November 22 91-87 in a tightly contested matchup.
In that game, Toronto star Rahshida Atkinson had 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting, adding nine rebounds and three steals.
For the Mustangs to exact revenge and move on to the next round of the playoffs, they will have to contain Atkinson, who has averaged 15.6 points per game throughout the season, good for seventh in Ontario University Athletics.
While Toronto will rely on Atkinson going into Wednesday night's game, the Mustangs will be looking for Mackenzie Puklicz to produce at the high level that she has all year. The leading scorer in the OUA has averaged 18.6 points per game this season,.
However, Mustangs head coach Brian Cheng knows that for the Mustangs to make a serious playoff run, it will be imperative that his team doesn't rely too much on Puklicz to get the win.
"Mackenzie is a great player and she does so many things for us," said Cheng. "However, in our last game against Algoma, they scored 49 points and Mackenzie didn't score 50. As a team, we win when we have different players produce. If Mackenzie is the only one who comes out to play, we're in serious trouble."
The Mustangs have gotten solid scoring throughout the year from fifth-year guard Caroline Wolynski, who has averaged 13.6 points per game, and sophomore Maddy Horst, who has scored 12.1 points per game.
In the paint, the Mustangs will rely on rookie Julia Curran, who has grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game, and third-year Victoria Heine, who has averaged 6.2 rebounds per game this year.
Moving forward, the Mustangs will need to limit opponents offensively and improve in the rebounding department if they want to make a deep playoff run.
Sitting at 10th in the OUA in opponent field goal percentage, the Mustangs must focus on pressuring Toronto into taking bad shots. The Varsity Blues struggle at shooting the ball, hitting only 35.1 per cent of their shots during the regular season.
The rebounding battle will be key to the outcome of the game on Wednesday night. Western has struggled to grab boards, averaging only 39.3 rebounds per game, 10th in the OUA.
Many eyes will be on the matchup between Rahshida Atkinson and Mackenzie Puklicz, as the two stars will go head-to-head.
The Mustangs have payback on their mind.
But it's also playoff time, and in a one or done situation, only one thing matters: survive and advance. Or pack up your bags and clean out your lockers.