The tournament may be more than 18 months away, but the announcement of the U Sports women's basketball championship coming to Cape Breton University in Sydney in 2023 is big news.
"The girls were all super excited to hear and we were shocked because we are such a small school," said Hailey MacLeod, a CBU Capers forward from Marion Bridge, which is about 30-minute drive from the CBU campus.
"Coming from a small town, sometimes people think there isn't much talent down here but being able to show the talent that we have here in Cape Breton will be awesome."
U Sports, the national governing body for university athletics, made the announcement on Thursday. It will be the first time a Nova Scotia university has hosted the national women's tournament since it was held at Dalhousie in 1980.
The host school has an automatic berth in the tournament. Queen's University will host the 2022 tournament in Kingston, Ont.
The Capers are set to begin their 2021-22 season Friday night at Sullivan Fieldhouse, which has undergone some major renovations.
"To see the field house now, it looks nothing like it did before the pandemic," said CBU women's basketball coach Fabian McKenzie, a six-time Atlantic conference coach of the year who has also coached with Canada's national program.
"It kind of has an imposing feel to it, which is good for us, hopefully, and it's a great facility to play basketball in. It looks amazing."
With six first-year players on the roster, it may take a while for the Capers to gel this season. But knowing what lies ahead should be an incentive for the young team as it develops.
McKenzie sees the tournament as a great way for young girls in the area to get hooked on the game.
"If you can't see it, you can't be it, so all of the young players in this region are going to see the best of the best in women's university basketball in this country right here in Sydney," he said. "They'll be able to see someone they can aspire to be later on as they grow up."
The basketball nationals will be the third national tournament to be played in Sydney in 18 months.
The 2021 U Sports women's soccer championship is being hosted by CBU beginning Nov. 18 and the CBU men's soccer team will host the national event next November.
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