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Tenacious D: Laval is losing its top defensive weapon

Khaleann Caron-Goudreau leaves the Rouge et Or as arguably the best defender in U Sports.

Laval's Khaleann Caron-Goudreau boxes out a UPEI player in the 2020 U Sports bronze medal game. Photo: Ben Forrest
Laval's Khaleann Caron-Goudreau boxes out a UPEI player in the 2020 U Sports bronze medal game. Photo: Ben Forrest

Hours before the final game of her university career, Laval forward and two-time U Sports Defensive Player of the Year Khaleann Caron-Goudreau was literally sick to her stomach.

The 24-year-old master’s of business administration student from Gatineau, Que., was battling indigestion and hydrating as much as possible to stave off its effects. 

“I didn’t feel 100 per cent, so I didn’t provide as much on offence” she said after the Rouge et Or lost 57-50 to the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Panthers in the U Sports women’s bronze medal game at TD Place in Ottawa.

“But at least I was there on defence. I’m proud of what I did on defence.”

Caron-Goudreau had just six points in the bronze medal game but was dominant on the boards, grabbing 18 rebounds and blocking five shots in the loss. 

Laval led by as many as 18 points and had a 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining, but the Panthers sprung to life and made several key shots down the stretch. 

UPEI guard Jenna Mae-Ellsworth, the 2020 U Sports Player of the Year, nailed a jumper with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter to put the Panthers ahead 52-50, and they never relinquished the lead. 

Khaleann Caron-Goudreau calls for the ball in Laval's 2020 national bronze medal loss to UPEI. Photo: Ben Forrest Photo
Khaleann Caron-Goudreau calls for the ball in Laval’s 2020 national bronze medal loss to UPEI – Photo: Ben Forest

Ellsworth hit another clutch two-pointer with 18 seconds left, and made a pair of free throws with three seconds on the clock to ice the win.

“Honestly, we lost the game because we were undisciplined,” said Caron-Goudreau, who isn’t known to mince words. “It’s our fault. It’s the whole team. It’s not one person in particular.

“But losing a 10-point lead is really disappointing, and I think I’m not the only one that’s disappointed.”

This was the latest in a series of gut-wrenching setbacks for Caron-Goudreau, a former NCAA Division I player who battled injuries over one season at Vanderbilt and three at the University of Texas.

She played in just three games at Vanderbilt, which she attended with her twin sister Audrey-Ann, who is also an MBA student at Laval and played professionally in Greece and Germany. 

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Caron-Goudreau transferred to Texas as a sophomore and sat out the season due to transfer rules. As a junior she played in 15 games but reportedly suffered a stress injury in her right foot that kept her on the bench for nearly half the season. 

Texas made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 when Caron-Goudreau was a senior, but she had limited playing time and became openly critical of the U.S. college system. 

“I got a great degree and I played against WNBA players,” she said in an interview with Sportsnet last year.”

Caron-Goudreau leaves Laval as a two-time U Sports Defensive Player of the Year. She helped lead the Rouge et Or to the brink of a national title in 2019
Caron-Goudreau leaves Laval as a two-time U Sports Defensive Player of the Year. She helped lead the Rouge et Or to the brink of a national title in 2019. Photo: Ben Forrest

But then again: “Honestly, I wouldn’t send my children there, ” she said. “It was so intense. I got injured. I was overworked … I didn’t have a life, necessarily, for four years.”

After her final season at Texas, Caron-Goudreau returned to Canada to play for the Rouge et Or, who entered last year’s U Sports Final 8 as the No. 1 seed and title favourite. 

They lost 70-58 to McMaster in the gold medal game, shooting just 11 per cent from the field in the third quarter. Caron-Goudreau had 12 rebounds, 10 points and four blocks in the loss.

But she also won her first U Sports DPOY award that season, and was a conference first-team all-star as Laval marched to an RESQ conference championship. 

“My first four years in the States were pretty pretty difficult,” she said in an interview with BasketballBuzz. “It was rough — the mental part, and the physical part. 

“When I got back to Quebec City and got to play with the Rouge et Or, those were the best two years of basketball I had in my whole career. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”

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