Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Huskies take down Badgers to win second national title
The 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championships were held this week at The Arena at TD Place in Ottawa, hosted by the Carleton Ravens, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, and the Saskatchewan Huskies came out on top in the Women’s Final 8. The Huskies were ranked first overall in the season’s final rankings (from Feb. 25), and they were named as the top seed for the Final 8 after winning the Canada West title with a 62-51 victory over the Alberta Pandas last Saturday. In this week’s Final 8, Saskatchewan beat the eighth-seeded Carleton Ravens 73-59 in the quarterfinals, then took down the fourth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or 76-57 in the semifinals, and then beat the second-seeded Brock Badgers 82-61 in the final Sunday to win the Bronze Baby trophy and their second-ever national championship.
The Huskies’ first national title came in 2016, when three of this year’s fifth-year players (Megan Ahlstrom, Vera Crooks and Sabine Dukate were in their first year). And on Sunday, Dukate particularly shone, recording a game-high 24 points on eight-for-15 shooting, with all eight of those makes coming from three-point range. That showing, and her play throughout the Final 8, saw her named tournament MVP.
Full coverage of the women’s Final 8 can be found here.
Ravens edge Tigers, claim 15th national championship
The Carleton Ravens have now won 15 U SPORTS men’s basketball championships overall, and 15 of the last 18 (including the last two). The Ravens were the top-ranked team in the last rankings (from Feb. 25), and went into this event as the top seed after a 90-68 win over the Western Mustangs in the Wilson Cup (OUA final) last week. There, they beat the eighth-seeded Calgary Dinos 82-66 in the quarterfinals before taking down the Mustangs 90-63 in the semifinals and beating the Tigers 74-65 in the final Sunday.
That final game saw Dalhousie lead 15-13 after the first quarter and 36-24 at the half, but the Ravens cut that lead to 54-40 heading into the final frame and then pulled away down the stretch. Biniam Ghebrekidan led the Ravens with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Isiah Osborne and Alain Louis notched 13 and 12 points respectively. Osborne was named the MVP of the men’s Final 8.
Full coverage of the men’s Final 8 can be found here.
Track and field
On the women’s side, the Gryphons put up 138 points, while the University of Toronto Varsity Blues were second with 86.5 and the Laval Rouge et Or were third with 58. The Guelph women’s 4X400 metre relay team turned in a particularly spectacular showing, with Morgan Byng, Sadie-Jane Hickson, Jenna Smith and Zoe Sherar posting a time of 3:40.08. That gave the Gryphons their second-straight national title in that event, and tied the U SPORTS record they set in that event last year.
On the men’s side, Guelph recorded 139 points, while the Calgary Dinos were second with 69 and the Saskatchewan Huskies were third with 51. A notable showing there came from Mark Bujnowski, who earned his second-straight gold in shot put and also won the weight throw. And Guelph head coach Jason Kerr was named the Fox 40 Coach of the Year on both the men’s and women’s sides.
Full coverage of the track and field championships can be found here.
No. 5 X-Women upset No. 1 Huskies in AUS final, advance to nationals
One of the most notable upsets this week came in the Subway AUS Women's Hockey Championship, where the No. 5 St. Francis Xavier X-Women took down the No. 1 Saint Mary’s Huskies. That came after the X-Women finished as conference runners-up for the past three years. This time around, they swept the best-of-three final in straight games, winning 4-2 on the road Tuesday and 5-3 at home Thursday.
Tuesday’s game saw AUS MVP (both regular-season and playoff) and leading scorer Tyra Meropoulis strike first for the X-Women late in the first period, then add her second of the night in the next frame. Katie Peddle responded for Saint Mary’s later in the second, but Lea McLeod put StFX up 3-1 early in the third. Siobhan Birch pulled the Huskies again within one with a goal at 11:23 of the final frame, but Carly Burrows iced it for the X-Women with a power-play goal with just over a minute left.
Thursday’s game saw Miranda Hatt put SMU up 1-0 just 34 seconds into the game off a rebound, and Kiana Wilkinson doubled that lead with a power-play goal at 8:09 of the second period. Less than four minutes later, though, a short-handed marker from Lindsey Donovan cut the lead to one, and Kaya Brossard tied it for the X-Women before the end of the period. Amy Graham then gave St. FX a lead early in the third, and while Caleigh Meraw would tie it later on, Graham scored again with 4:32 left to put the X-Women back on top. Emerson Elliott then added an empty-netter in the final moments to give StFX their first women’s hockey conference title since 2014-15. And they earned that in front of a supportive crowd.
The X-Women are now moving on to the 2020 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms Women’s Hockey Championship, hosted by the UPEI Panthers at MacLauchlan Arena in Charlottetown this week. StFX will be the third seed. They’ll be joined by the first-seeded Alberta Pandas (Canada West champions), the second-seeded University of Toronto Varsity Blues (OUA champions), the fourth-seeded McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions), the fifth-seeded York Lions (OUA finalists), the sixth-seeded Montreal Carabins (RSEQ finalists), the seventh-seeded Mount Royal Cougars (Canada West finalists), and the eighth-seeded Panthers (hosts). Games begin Thursday, with the final taking place Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern. All games will be live-streamed for free in English on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports App, with French-language coverage available via USPORTS.LIVE.
No. 3 Gryphons edge No. 4 Gee-Gees in longest game in Queen’s Cup history
Saturday’s 109th battle for the Queen’s Cup (the OUA men’s hockey trophy) was the longest in the trophy’s history, and the Guelph Gryphons came out on top. Ranked No. 3 in the final Top 10 rankings on Feb. 25, the Gryphons faced a tough test in the final from the Ottawa Gee-Gees (No. 4 in those rankings), but they eventually emerged with a 2-1 win in front of a capacity home crowd of 1,600. It took them five full periods (100 minutes) and then another 1:14 of the third overtime to get there, though.
The only regulation goals in this one came early in the third period, with Guelph’s Marc Stevens scoring at the 1:39 mark and Ottawa’s Kevin Domingue equalizing 21 seconds later. And the first two overtimes remained deadlocked, with Gryphons’ goalie Andrew Masters (who made 50 saves on the night to 36 from the Gee-Gees’ Dominic Graham) a big part of the reason why. Then, in the third overtime, Guelph’s Ted Nichol scored the winner in the second minute of play:
Both the Gryphons and Gee-Gees will now move on to the 2020 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup, hosted by the Acadia Axemen and Sports & Entertainment Atlantic (S|E|A) at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. They’ll be the third and fourth seeds respectively. The other seeds are the UNB Reds (first, AUS champions), the Saskatchewan Huskies (second, Canada West champions), the Axemen (fifth, AUS finalists/hosts), the Saint Mary’s Huskies (sixth, AUS bronze medalists), the Western Mustangs (seventh, OUA bronze medalists) and the UBC Thunderbirds (eighth, Canada West finalists). The University Cup begins Thursday with the final Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern; all games will be live-streamed for free in English on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports App, with French-language coverage available via USPORTS.LIVE.
Carabins take down No. 10 Rouge et Or for sixth-consecutive title
The Canada West, OUA and RSEQ women’s volleyball conference finals took place this week, and the RSEQ result was particularly interesting. The Montreal Carabins had won the past five conference titles (and 13 overall), but weren’t ranked in the final Top 10 this week, while their opponents, the Laval Rouge et Or, came in as the No. 10 team. But the Carabins were the stronger team in the best-of-three final this weekend, winning in four sets (25-16, 20-25 , 25-22, 26-24) at home Friday and then clinching the championship with another four-set victory ( 25-18, 25-17, 16-25, 25-21) on the road Saturday.
Friday’s match saw Maude Babin and Adryanna Dorismond-Rodrigue lead the way for Montreal with 13 kills each, while Dorismond-Rodrigue added four aces. Clémence Provost-Lussier contributed 11 further kills, six blocks and three aces for the Carabins. On Saturday, Babin led Montreal with a match-high 21 kills, while Dorismond-Rodrigue added eight.
The Carabins are now off to the 2020 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship, hosted by the Calgary Dinos beginning Friday. They’ll be seeded sixth, and joined by the Trinity Western Spartans (first, Canada West champions), the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (second, OUA champions), the Dalhousie Tigers (third, AUS champions), the Alberta Pandas (fourth, Canada West finalists), the Mount Royal Cougars (fifth, Canada West bronze medalists), the Brock Badgers (seventh, OUA finalists), and the Dinos (eighth, hosts). Livestreaming is available via subscription on USPORTS.LIVE, and the gold-medal game will take place Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.
No. 4 Gaels bounce back to edge No. 7 Varsity Blues for second-straight OUA title
The Queen’s Gaels are again OUA champions, but it wasn’t an easy road for them. The Gaels went 14-4 this regular season, and while they were ranked No. 4 in the final Top 10 this week to the No. 5 of their semifinal opponent (the McMaster Marauders) and the No. 7 of their gold-medal match opponent (the University of Toronto Varsity Blues), those opponents had posted 15-2 and 17-1 marks this year respectively. So that set up as a pair of daunting challenges.
And those clashes proved tough indeed. Queen’s needed five sets to edge the Marauders (host of the OUA Final Four) Friday, posting a 23-25, 25-17, 25-18, 24-26m 15-13 win. And Saturday’s Forsyth Cup final went in the Varsity Blues’ favour early on, as they jumped out to a two-set lead. But behind strong showings from Adam Boljkovac (a match-high 16 kills, six in the fifth set, plus three service aces) and Zac Hutcheson (10 kills and three blocks), the Gaels rallied for a 21-25, 18-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-10 victory to claim their second consecutive OUA championship.
Queen’s will now move on to the 2020 U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship, hosted by the Manitoba Bisons beginning Friday. The third-seeded Gaels will be joined by the first-seeded Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West champions), the second-seeded Montreal Carabins (RSEQ champions), the fourth-seeded Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West finalists), the fifth-seeded Varsity Blues (OUA finalists), the sixth-seeded Marauders (OUA bronze medalists), the seventh-seeded Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ finalists) and the Bisons (hosts). Livestreaming is available via subscription on USPORTS.LIVE, and the gold-medal game is set for 8 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
Social media posts of the week:
Speaking of those men’s volleyball championships, the Bisons are preparing for them with some tributes to head coach Garth Pischke, who’s in his 38th season with the team, has a record six U SPORTS coach of the year awards (1981-82, 1983-84, 1987-88, 1989-90, 1994-95 and 2016-17), and also served as the Canadian men’s national team coach from 1996-2000:
In women’s basketball, the unveiling of the Top 100 Canadian university players of the past century was completed this week, with many of those players in attendance at the Final 8 gold-medal game Sunday (which was also International Women’s Day):
In men’s basketball, the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced this week that the the 2020 CEBL U SPORTS Draft picks will be revealed on Thursday, March 26:
In wrestling, the Pan-American Championships were held this week in Ottawa, and one notable result saw 21-year-old Brock Badgers’ wrestler Hannah Taylor earn silver in the 57-kg class:
In curling, the Tim Hortons Brier wrapped up this week in Kingston, ON, and Brad Gushue’s victorious Newfoundland and Labrador rink included second Brett Gallant, a UPEI Panthers curling alum who skipped their rink to appearances at nationals in 2010 and 2012.
In football, former Western Mustangs QB and reigning Hec Crighton Trophy (awarded to the top U SPORTS football player each year) winner Chris Merchant has now signed in Finland with the Wasa Royals of the Maple League (Vaahteraliiga):
And in soccer, Ottawa Gee-Gees defender Trinity Esprit was honoured by FISU as part of a “Celebrating women in university sport” feature around International Women’s Day.
Andrew has been covering university sports in Canada since 2005 at outlets such as The Queen's Journal, The CIS Blog, and Yahoo Canada, where he also served as the editor of the Canadian football blog 55-Yard Line. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University with a major in history, and currently works as a staff writer and editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBucholtz