Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
No. 2 Spartans win a pair against No. 1 Dinos to cap off perfect semester
One of this weekend’s most anticipated matchups came in women’s volleyball, where the No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans (10-0 heading into the weekend) hosted the No. 1 Calgary Dinos (also 10-0 heading in) in a pair of clashes Friday and Saturday night. And those matches lived up to their billing, with the Spartans picking up thrilling five-set and four-set wins to head into the holiday break with a 12-0 regular-season mark (and a 21-0 mark counting the preseason).
On Friday night, Trinity Western came out with a come-from-behind five-set victory, winning 14-25, 23-25, 29-27, 25-16, 15-11. The first set saw the Dinos win relatively easily on the strength of four blocks and a .333 hitting percentage with no attack errors, while the Spartans had 10 errors alongside 10 kills. Trinity Western made it closer in the second set, tying the score five times late (including at 23) before giving up back-to-back kills to Kate Pexman. But the third set saw the Spartans really rebound, and they were up 24-17 before a Dinos’ rally pushed it to extra points, where Trinity Western eventually won 29-27. From there, the Spartans picked up a smooth fourth-set victory and then closed it out in the fifth.
Trinity Western rookie Savannah Purdy picked up a career-high 22 kills Friday and added 12 digs, while Hilary Howe had 20 kills. Mikaelyn Sych had a match-high eight blocks and nine kills for the Spartans, and setter Brie King had 51 assists in her return to the lineup after missing four matches. Pexman and Kenzie Vaandering had 17 and 14 kills respectively for Calgary, while Kennedy Snape had a match-high 24 digs.
In Saturday’s 15-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-22 Spartans’ win, the Dinos again got off to a great start, winning the first set 25-15 on the strength of a 10-1 run partway through. Trinity Western rebounded from there, though, going up 5-1 and 10-3 in the second set and holding on from there, then taking a 10-4 lead in the third set and going on to win. Calgary battled back in the fourth set and staved off two match points, but then eventually fell on a service error.
Avery Heppell led the way for Trinity Western Saturday, recording a career-high 15 kills and adding a match-high five service aces. Howe contributed 12 kills, with six of those coming in the crucial fourth set, and also chipped in five blocks. Sych again had eight blocks and added seven kills, while King had 40 assists, four kills and four blocks. For Calgary, Pexman had 12 kills and four aces, while Emma Kastelein had eight blocks.
No. 1 Reds get some revenge on No. 6 Huskies in wild 7-4 win
Last Saturday, the-then No. 7 Saint Mary’s Huskies beat the No. 1 UNB Varsity Reds 4-3 in overtime on the road. The Reds stayed at No. 1 this week, though (with Saint Mary’s moving up to No. 6), and they got some revenge of their own in a road rematch Friday, downing the Huskies 7-4.
Surprisingly for a game that finished with such a high score, this one started with a scoreless first period. But UNB broke the deadlock with a power-play goal from Tyler Boland three minutes into the second period, and Cam Brace made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later. Saint Mary’s responded with a goal of their own at the 12:06 mark, but Matthew Boucher restored UNB’s two-goal lead on the power play two minutes later, and the Reds led 3-1 heading into the third.
Things then got really wild in the third period, with Stephen Anderson and Mark Rassell scoring early for UNB, Nick Welsh responding for Saint Mary’s, and Boland and Joe Gatenby adding two more for the Reds. In the final two minutes, Alexandar Peters and Connor McGlynn tallied for the Huskies, but that wasn’t enough to pull them back.
The Reds wrapped up this weekend (and the first half of the season) with a 5-1 road win over the Acadia Axemen Saturday, while the Huskies fell 4-3 at home to the UPEI Panthers. Both teams will resume AUS play on Jan. 4 against each other, with the Reds hosting the Huskies.
No. 10 Thunderwolves take down No. 2 Rams
One of the bigger upsets this weekend came in women’s basketball, where the No. 10 Lakehead Thunderwolves downed the No. 2 Ryerson Rams 72-63 at home Friday. The Thunderwolves led 11-10 after the first quarter, but trailed 21-20 at the half; Lakehead then scored 26 points in each of the final two quarters to 20 and 22 respectively for Ryerson. Defence was a key factor for the Thunderwolves, who forced 19 turnovers while holding the Rams to just 35.5 percent shooting and limiting them to 18 rebounds (and just five on the offensive glass).
Senior guard Karissa Kajorinne led the way for Lakehead, scoring a game-high 26 points and adding six rebounds. Leashja Grant had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunderwolves, while Lily Gruber-Schulz chipped in 10 points and two rebounds while playing solid defence in 30 minutes of court time. For Ryerson, Jama Bin-Edward had 11 points and three rebounds, while Hayley Robertson had nine points and five rebounds.
The Thunderwolves wrapped up the first half of the season with an 84-71 home win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Saturday, heading into the break at 9-1 and on a five-game winning streak. They’ll resume OUA play Jan. 11 and 12 against the Windsor Lancers.
Track and Field
Martlet Classic sees McGill athletes earn two golds, while Mustangs shine at Bob Vigars Open
The McGill Martlets kicked off their indoor track season this week with the Martlet Classic, and they saw two athletes claim gold at home. Lauren Woods claimed gold in the triple jump with a mark of 11.68 metres (and added a second-place finish in the long jump with a mark of 5.07 metres), while Karine Belleau-Beliveau earned gold in the 1,000 metres with a time of 2:52.61. McGill’s other podium finish on the women’s side came from Lindsay Harttrup, who was second in the high jump with a mark of 1.58 metres. On the men’s side, Ismail Francillon placed third for McGill in both the long jump (6.05m) and high jump (1.86m). Full results are available here.
Elsewhere in track and field, the Western Mustangs hosted the Bob Vigars Opener this weekend, and they recorded some impressive performances at home. In the women’s 60-metre dash, the Mustangs’ Kyra Chang-Lewis and Anton Struminski-Bodden took first and second with times of 7.97 seconds each, while Western’s Michael Petersen and Mac Campbell swept the top two spots in the men’s 600-metre run with times of 1:20:18 and 1:20:44 respectively. Other Western gold medalists included Scott Billings (men’s triple jump, 14.10 metres), Stuart Cameron (men’s shot put, 15.25 metres) and Shaelyn Lauren (women’s high jump, 1.71 metres). Full results are available here.
No. 3 Martlets beat No. 5 Stingers, while No. 6 Tommies edge Reds in Battle of the Hill and take down No. 8 X-Women in overtime
There were some good rivalry games this weekend in women’s hockey, with the No. 3 McGill Martlets taking down the cross-town No. 5 Concordia Stingers 3-2 on the road Saturday and the No. 6 St. Thomas Tommies beating the UNB Reds 2-1 on the road in the Battle of the Hill Wednesday before edging the No. 8 StFX X-Women 2-1 in a shootout at home Friday. Jade Downie-Landry, RSEQ’s leading point-getter with 13 points through 10 games, scored the winner for McGill Saturday, while Olivia Reid and Emily Oleksuk scored for St. Thomas Wednesday and Mariah Carey tallied for the Tommies in regulation Friday before Lauren Henman (once) and Lauren Legault (twice) notched shootout goals to give them the win.
Mustangs upset No. 6 Marauders in five sets
A great men’s volleyball clash this week saw the Western Mustangs take down the No. 6 McMaster Marauders in five sets (25-21, 28-30, 23-25, 25-20, 15-12) at home Friday. Gianfranco Sartor, Jackson Bere, and Evan Hammond had 17, 14 and 11 kills respectively for Western, with Bere adding nine blocks and Sator chipping in six. Nathan Delguidice had 25 kills in a losing effort for McMaster, while setter David Doty had 54 assists and four blocks. That marked both teams’ last game before the break; they have exhibition tournaments coming up, but will resume OUA play Jan. 12, with McMaster hosting the Windsor Lancers and Western facing the Brock Badgers.
Social media posts of the week:
As mentioned last week, plenty of U SPORTS alums (and current Laurentian Voyageurs guard Kadre Gray) are on the Canadian men's basketball team involved in the fifth window of FIBA World Cup qualifiers this weekend, a team coached by Ryerson Rams’ head coach Roy Rana. That team lost 84-76 to Venezuela on the road Friday, but Carleton alum Phil Scrubb scored 16 points for Canada, second on the team behind Kyle Wiltjer. Canada (7-2 and second in Group F with three games remaining; the three top teams from the group and the top fourth-place team between Groups E and F will qualify for the FIBA World Cup) plays its second and final match of this window Monday against Brazil at 5 Eastern; that match can be seen on DAZN Canada.
Speaking of past U SPORTS athletes, the Manitoba Bisons are doing something cool to honor their football seniors, spotlighting each with a tweet and a photo collage. Here’s an example, on defensive back Houston Rennie:
And in terms of athletes still playing, Manitoba men’s hockey goalie Byron Spriggs made one of the best saves of this season Saturday night against the Calgary Dinos:
That was an important save, as it helped the Bisons win 3-1, snapping a 12-game losing streak in the process. Meanwhile, a streak at the other end saw the No. 1 Carleton Ravens notch their 10th-straight victory in men’s basketball:
In women’s basketball, the Nipissing Lakers and Thompson Rivers WolfPack both hosted Shoot for the Cure nights to raise funds for cancer research this week. Here are some looks at some of the special apparel players and coaches wore for those nights:
And in wrestling, the Alberta Pandas got some excellent results across the border this weekend in the Great Falls Open:
Here’s wishing a happy holidays to all the U SPORTS student-athletes, coaches and fans out there. We’ll return with more Monday Morning Quarterback in the new year.
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.