In Pursuit of Excellence - Katie Ross

In Pursuit of Excellence - Katie Ross

Ross looking to end Acadia career on a high note

By John DeCoste '77

When the Acadia basketball Axewomen take to the court for the conference championships, Katie Ross will be well aware that every game she plays could be her last in an Acadia uniform.

Ross, a fourth-year honours Kinesiology major, is planning to complete her course requirements and graduate this spring. A perennial academic all-Canadian, the Bedford native was a CIS top-eight academic all-Canadian in 2015-2016 and also earned the James Bayer Memorial Scholarship.

Her stellar academic record aside, Ross says when she looks back on her Acadia career, the highlight – at least as of Feb. 28 – would be getting to host the U-Sports women's soccer nationals last fall.

"The soccer nationals, for sure." she says. "Being named a top-eight academic all-Canadian (and receiving a medal from the Governor-General) was a great experience, but being able to share the nationals experience with everyone here was exceptional."

As hosts of the U-Sports championship, the soccer Axewomen got to play three times, finished with a 2-1 record and earned the consolation championship. "The tournament ran really smoothly," she says. "The fan support was like nothing I've ever seen before. Being able to be a part of it was a highlight of my Acadia career, and something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Ross began her Acadia athletic career in the fall of 2013, and circumstances made it special pretty much from the start. A graduate of Halifax Grammar School, she was recruited to Acadia to play soccer, but was given permission to play basketball as well. She ended up making both teams.

"Growing up, I always played both soccer and basketball, and at the same time," she says. "It was interesting coming here and getting to have three months of straight soccer, followed by three months of straight basketball. I was able to play both sports, but they were separated."

Ross earned a job as a starting midfielder for the soccer Axewomen from the start. Her chances of cracking the starting lineup in basketball were less of a sure thing, but her natural talent and intelligence earned her a starting job on the basketball squad as well, for most of her career.

While in soccer, she had a particular job to do and did it well, in basketball, Ross was known more for her versatility. She is a good ball-handler and a good mid- to long-range shooter, but her real value to the team is on defense and the intelligence she brings to the court.

As for which of her two varsity sports she prefers, and which is her favorite, Ross says it really depends on which sport she is playing at the time.

Last fall, for example, and especially during the nationals, she likely would have chosen soccer, but during the basketball season, it's usually a different story.

"I really have no real favorite – at least not yet," she says. "They've both been phenomenal experiences, and I've had amazing coaches and teammates in both, but they're two totally different sports."

Needless to say, Ross's focus when we spoke Feb. 28 was the upcoming AUS women's basketball playoffs. Seeded fifth, the Axewomen were scheduled to open the single-knockout tournament against UPEI March 3.

"We're feeling great," she said when asked about the team. "We have a really good mindset going in. We're focusing on the process, and building on the experience we got last year. We like our opening match-up against PEI, and we're taking it one game at a time."

They have the nation's leading scorer in Paloma Anderson, but otherwise, Acadia is a tough match-up for opposing teams because the Axewomen have so many potential weapons.

Moreover, Ross says, "we're very close as a team. There are a lot of really great friendships, and everyone gets along so well. It's one of the closest teams I've ever been a part of."

With six wins in their last seven regular season games, Acadia enters the playoffs on a bit of a roll. Ross acknowledged, "we've been hearing we're the team nobody really wants to play."

The Axewomen, she said, "are happy with how we've been able to improve our game, especially on defense. We can score at a high rate, and get the stops on defense to match our offense."

Acadia started the season 0-4, and was 2-5 at the Christmas break. "It was different for me, because I wasn't there before Christmas. (The team) faced some adversity, but came back after Christmas feeling more positive, which allowed us to get more of the results we were looking for in the second half."

While it is "tiring to play three games back-to-back-to-back, we like our chances for sure." And while they are taking it one game at a time, "we definitely feel we can go all the way" and win Acadia's first conference championship since 2012.

Ross is aware her time at Acadia is growing short, but she will be able to leave without regret. She has enjoyed the entire experience – academics, athletics (times two), and other activities like Shoot For The Cure. "I have absolutely no regrets over my decision to come here."

After graduation, she plans to move on to physiotherapy school, and has applied to several places, including Dalhousie and "a couple of schools in Ontario," all of which are "pretty equal.

"I've wanted to be a physiotherapist since elementary school. That's what my mother does."

She stressed, "if I don't get into a physio school (for this fall), I can see me coming back (for a fifth year), but if I get the opportunity to move on, I don't think I'd be able to turn it down."

As a legitimate two-sport athlete, Ross's decision to return for a fifth year would be more complicated than most. "I don't think I could come back for just one sport," she says.

Ross acknowledged, "I'm proud of my accomplishments as a student, and how I've been able to balance the academic and athletic demands. Playing a varsity sport is like having a part-time or full-time job in addition to school. Being able to balance everything is something every student should be proud of."

Asked what she will miss most about Acadia, Ross replied, "all the friendships I've made here. You take it for granted you'll be able to see your friends and your profs every day. Leaving here, it will put into a completely different perspective just how lucky I was to be able to come here."

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