Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week across Canada West, the OUA, RSEQ and the AUS.

Women’s basketball

Defending national champ Marauders pick up two wins over Thunderwolves, but were tested hard Saturday

This season marks the 100th anniversary of Canadian university women’s basketball. The first Canadian interuniversity game, played between Queen’s and McGill on Feb. 6, 1920, was commemorated with a special preseason game earlier this month, and now, the 100th regular season is getting underway, with OUA regular-season action beginning this week. A key team to watch there is the defending conference champion McMaster Marauders.

McMaster won their first-ever national title in women’s basketball at the Final 8 in March, beating the top-seeded Laval Rouge et Or to lift the Bronze Baby. And the Marauders started their title defence in solid fashion this weekend with a pair of road wins against the Lakehead Thunderwolves, but they faced some challenges along the way.

On Friday night, the Thunderwolves jumped out to an early lead, and they were up 12-11 after the first quarter. But McMaster responded with a 26-11 second quarter and cruised to a final 80-55 win. Sarah Gates led the way for the Marauders with 19 points in that one, while Olivia Wilson and Christina Buttenham each had 14. Megan Looney led Lakehead with 12 points.

On Saturday, things wound up being a lot closer. The Thunderwolves led 17-10 after the first quarter, but McMaster responded with a 24-18 second quarter to make it just 35-34 Lakehead at the half. The Marauders then outscored the Thunderwolves 33-30 the rest of the way and picked up a 67-65 win. Buttenham led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while WIlson had seven points and 13 rebounds.

Some other notable elements in U SPORTS women’s basketball this season include the debut of a 48th team, the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. They fell to the Laurentian Voyageurs 68-48 Friday and 80-58 to the Nipissing Lakers Saturday. The Ridgebacks are also participating in the Shoot For The Cure campaign this year, as are the other 47 teams, marking the ninth season with all teams involved.

The Shoot For The Cure program has raised over $1.3 million for the Canadian Cancer Society and related local and provincial charities since its 2007 beginnings. This year’s first Shoot For The Cure game saw the Western Mustangs pick up a 74-51 home win over the Windsor Lancers. The full schedule of this year’s Shoot For The Cure events can be seen here, with the next one coming Friday when the Manitoba Bisons host the UBCO Heat.

Men’s basketball

Rams beat Lions, but fall to Badgers

The OUA men’s basketball regular season also started this week, and while the defending conference and national champion Carleton Ravens haven’t begun regular-season play yet (they beat the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 81-75 in exhibition action at their own House Laughton tournament, and they’ll face the NCAA’s Syracuse Orange on the road Tuesday), the Ryerson Rams (who took third place nationally last year) got their own season rolling.

This was Ryerson’s first season with previous associate head coach Borko Popic at the helm, as previous head coach Roy Rana left in June to join the NBA’s Sacramento Kings as chief of staff and an assistant coach. The Rams started the year with a 80-67 home win over the York Lions Thursday, but then fell 65-62 on the road to the Brock Badgers Saturday.

On Thursday, Ryerson jumped out to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter, but York bounced back to outscore the Rams 22-13 in the second quarter and take a 32-31 lead at halftime. Ryerson then outscored the Lions 49-35 the rest of the way. Jayden Frederick led the way for the Rams with 32 points (a career-high, and against his former school, no less), while Tevaun Kokko added 21 points.

On Saturday, the Badgers came out on fire and led 24-16 after the first quarter and 39-29 at the half. Ryerson fought their way back into it, but wound up falling 65-62. Fifth-year Brock guard Tyler Brown was huge for the Badgers in this one, notching 21 points, including a three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the game.

Women’s rugby

No. 3 X-Women and No. 5 Gee-Gees take AUS and RSEQ titles

Last week saw women’s Canada West and OUA conference titles determined, with the UBC Thunderbirds and Queen’s Gaels winning those championships. This week saw the RSEQ and AUS championships, with the No. 5 Ottawa Gee-Gees taking down the No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or 25-15 on the road in the RSEQ title game and the No. 3 StFX X-Women picking up a 29-17 home win against the No. 7 Acadia Axewomen in the AUS title game.

In the RSEQ contest, the Gee-Gees won their sixth-straight conference championship, opening with a try and a penalty to take an 8-0 lead. Laval responded with a try and a convert and then took the lead before half with another try, but Ottawa came back in the second half and pulled away in the end thanks to a late try. Claire Gallagher led the way for the Gee-Gees with 10 points off two converts and two penalties.

In the AUS game, the X-Women won their fourth-straight conference title, and their fourth-straight over the Axewomen (who were the last other team to win an AUS title, beating StFX 34-17 in 2015 for their first-ever conference banner). Acadia jumped out to a 12-0 lead here, but StFX responded to lead 17-12 at the half and then picked up the overall 29-17 win. Third-year second row player Katie Pentz received playoff MVP honours for her efforts here.

The stage is now set for the U SPORTS national championships this week, which the Gee-Gees will host in Ottawa. They’ll face the Canada West finalist Dinos in the quarterfinals . Meanwhile, the X-Women will face the OUA finalist Guelph Gryphons in the first round. The Gaels will face the Axewomen, while the Thunderbirds will face the Rouge et Or.

Women’s field hockey

Vikes and Gryphons win Canada West and OUA titles

The national title matchup is also set in women’s field hockey, where the Canada West champion Victoria Vikes will host the OUA champion Guelph Gryphons in a best-of-three series. The Vikes, the defending Canada West and national champions, got there thanks to a 1-0 win (thanks to a goal from Ashton Aumen and a shutout from Robin Fleming) to open their regular-season-closing homestand against the UBC Thunderbirds Friday, which clinched the Canada West title for them. Victoria then finished the season with a 2-2 draw with UBC Saturday.

In the OUA title game, the host Gryphons beat the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 1-0 thanks to a goal from OUA MVP Katherine MacMillan and five saves from goalkeeper Amanda Hodgert. They’ll now head on the road to face the Vikes for a best-of-three series beginning Friday.

Cross country

Thunderbirds, Dinos, Gaels, Gryphons, Marlets, Rouge et Or, and Tigers win conference titles

The U SPORTS national cross country championships will be hosted by the Queen’s Gaels in Kingston, Ontario this coming week, and the conference championships this past weekend provide some good insight on who to watch. In Canada West, the UBC Thunderbirds and Calgary Dinos won the women’s and men’s titles respectively. In the OUA championships, the Queen’s Gaels and Guelph Gryphons won the women’s and men’s titles respectively. In the RSEQ championships, the McGill Martlets and Laval Rouge et Or won the women’s and men’s title respectively. And in AUS, the Dalhousie Tigers swept the women’s and men’s titles.

Social media posts of the week

In U SPORTS football, regular-season Canada West, RSEQ and AUS play wrapped up this week, and the OUA Yates Cup quarterfinals were held. Those quarterfinals saw the No. 3 Guelph Gryphons pick up a 22-17 home win over the Carleton Ravens thanks to a late blocked punt recovery for a touchdown from Siriman Harrison Bagayogo and the Waterloo Warriors picking up a 44-21 road win over the No. 9 Ottawa Gee-Gees:

At the OUA rowing championships, the Western Mustangs swept the conference banners for a second straight season and the fourth time in five years:

In curling, North Bay, ON hosted the season’s first Grand Slam of Curling event this week, and some U SPORTS figures played strong roles there. On the men’s side, Manitoba Bisons’ alum Matt Dunstone (who led the Bisons to a national university title in 2014) and his rink beat Brad Gushue’s rink 8-5 to take his first Grand Slam title. On the women’s side, Tracy Fleury picked up her first-ever Grand Slam victory; the long-time curler currently works as Laurentian University’s manager of accounting and reporting.

In international swimming, former UBC Thunderbird Brent Hayden came out of retirement (he retired after earning a bronze in the 2012 London Olympics) to start an attempt to qualify for next summer’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

And current UBC swimmer Markus Thormeyer set a Canadian record in International Swimming League competition this weekend:

In hockey, the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour was in Fredericton this weekend, and visited the UNB Reds as part of that segment:

This year’s Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame inductees were also announced this week, including a posthumous induction for Ryerson alum and famed journalist Randy Starkman:

And Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame held its induction festival this week, with key U SPORTS-connected inductees including former UBC football player, CFL commissioner, BLG Awards founder and Mitchell Bowl namesake Doug Mitchell and former University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey player and coach and national team star Jayna Hefford:

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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