Petit Provides Leadership, Motivation for Clan
SFU senior guard Marie-Line Petit has had three of the biggest games of her career her last three times on the court, and has been a key role model and leadership figure for the Clan.
SFU senior guard Marie-Line Petit has had three of the biggest games of her career her last three times on the court, and has been a key role model and leadership figure for the Clan.
Petit has been a member of the Clan since the team made the move from the Canadian leagues to the NCAA in the 2010-11 season.
Petit has been a member of the Clan since the team made the move from the Canadian leagues to the NCAA in the 2010-11 season.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

POMONA, Calif. – Throughout the 2013-14 Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball regular season, Simon Fraser senior guard Marie-Line Petit had settled into a steady groove. Over her first 25 games, Petit averaged 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and was among team leaders in assists with 92.

Petit understood her role on the team as a senior leader and as a secondary scorer whose main role was to facilitate the players around her.

But in last week’s GNAC Championships, a sentiment overcame the Quebec native that has been an all-too familiar theme throughout her entire basketball career.

Petit burst out of her comfort zone in the conference tournament, spurring her team to a quarterfinal victory with a career-high 24 points in the Clan’s win over SPU. Overall in the 3-game stretch, she averaged 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and had 14 assists, four steals and a block. She shot 48.6 percent (17-for-35) from the field, 41.2 percent (7-for-17) from 3-point range and converted 13-of-16 free-throws.

“Sometimes you just get used to being in your comfort zone, and you’re not used to getting pushed out of it,” Petit said regarding her remarkable play as of late. “I knew it could be my last tournament ever, so I just really wanted to give it all I had and focus on the things I knew how to do well.”

SFU relied heavily on Petit’s breakout performance, and much of her career up to this point has been founded upon leaps of faith and taking chances surrounded by a variety of unknowns.

Petit is a French-Canadian who grew up along the transnational St. Lawrence River, which connects the Great Lakes of Michigan to the Atlantic Ocean and runs southwest to northeast.

It was in the province of Quebec that Petit first learned the game of basketball, with early inspiration stemming from her family.

“My grandfather is the one who introduced sports to us as kids, and he always had an attitude that if you were going to do something you might as well do it right,” Petit said about her grandfather Jean-Paul Petit whose name she wears tattooed across her lower-right forearm.

“My brother Felix is a hockey player who has overcome a lot of adversity and is now playing professionally in Europe,” Petit said. “He has been another role model for me ever since I started playing sports.”

Perhaps Petit’s first big deviation from her comfort zone came in her mid teens, when she went to Saskatchewan in 10th grade to learn English. Petit continued to compete on the basketball court as well, taking the study of her new language in stride.

“The school I went to was very sport-situated and the basketball program was really good,” Petit said regarding her early progression as a player. “I had been playing with the same girls from seventh through eleventh grade, but I was the only one who was able to continue on in college.”

Having developed enough of her second language to compliment her native tongue of French, Petit sought out to develop her basketball career through a General and Vocational college program. Commonly referred to as a CEGEP, the three-year program serves as a intermediary between preparatory school and post-secondary education. 

“We won three nationals in a row, and after the first one I thought basketball was something I could be good at if I kept going with it,” Petit said about her decision of whether or not to continue playing after completing her time at Sainte Foy CEGEP.

While Petit’s play on the court spoke for itself, Simon Fraser was working on becoming the first Canadian institutional member of the NCAA. To remain competitive athletically, head coach Bruce Langford knew he needed players who weren’t afraid to jump into an entirely foreign game environment.

“I had an assistant coach at the time who wanted to recruit one of her teammates,” Langford remembered about his introduction to the now-senior. “I contacted the coach and he told me he had a different player, who is the kind of girl everyone wants to coach in their career. ‘Her name is Marie-Line Petit.’”

“My senior year of CEGEP school I heard about SFU and that they were doing well in a Canadian University league,” Petit said about her first interest in becoming a member of the Clan. “When I found out they were going through the NCAA process, I got excited and wanted to be a part of it.” 

Petit had always embraced challenging herself and trying new things, but the unforeseen difficulties of joining a college team let alone the NCAA proved to be one of the greatest adversities she had ever faced. 

“Coming from a league where there were really only a handful of good players to a league where every player on every team is good, you really have to try and prove yourself,” Petit said regarding the transition to a much more competitive reality. “You always have to be on top of your game every day of the year, and to start accomplishing your goals you’ve got to make things happen outside of what you normally do.”

“From Day 1 she has had a positive and upbeat attitude, and anyone who leaves their first language to pursue a degree in a second language has to have a good sense of adventure,” Langford said regarding Petit’s character. “We try to think of every game as a fresh start and we have really seen her improve and grow as a shooter. We didn’t want to take away her ability to choose when to shoot, and we continued to encourage her to get shots in the offense we run.”

One of the most instrumental facets of SFU’s offense this season has been GNAC leading scorer and unanimous first-team all-conference selection Erin Chambers and her 22.6 points per game. “Both of our captains have done such a great job of leading us,” Petit said referencing junior Chambers and fellow senior Chelsea Reist. “Erin leads so well by example on the court, and Chelsea is a motherly figure who is always making sure everyone is doing what we need to do.” 

Despite Petit’s career-performance last week, SFU left some unfinished business on the court as the Clan lost to Western Washington 78-74 in the GNAC title game. The defeat did not ruin SFU’s hopes at the postseason, as the team received the No. 3 overall seed in the West Region.

As fate would have it, Western Washington drew the No. 6 seed, provoking a rematch with the Clan in the first round of the regional tournament on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona on Friday at noon Pacific time.

“This is the eighth time we will have played them in the last two years, so both teams will know each other inside and out,” Petit said referring to Friday’s game, which will also mark the third-straight week in which the conference rivals have met. “Every possession is going to matter, and we can’t get down when they start getting hyped up. We have to keep our heads in a good place.”

In many ways, Friday’s matchup will be a comfortable setting. The teams are familiar with one another and have exceeded expectations by advancing into the postseason after each graduating major talent from a season ago. Additionally, SFU has already played two games on Cal Poly Pomona’s floor this season, splitting a pair of games with the Broncos to open the 2013-14 season.

In the elimination matchup, Simon Fraser will count on its most veteran player to do what she has done best her whole career: step out of the comfort zone, and thrive.

For more information on the 2014 NCAA West Regional Tournament, including how to watch Friday's game live online, visit the "related links" section of this article.