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.
Davidiuk’s Bears debut sees a weekend split with defending champ Spartans
Regular season U SPORTS men’s volleyball got underway in Canada West this weekend, and one of the most interesting clashes came between the Trinity Western Spartans and the Alberta Golden Bears. The Spartans won the Tantramar Trophy as national champions last year (their third national title in the past four years), while the Bears made their 19th straight appearance at the national championships (the longest current streak) and finished fourth.
But Alberta has a new face at the helm this year, with previous associate coach Brock Davidiuk taking over the head coaching role from Terry Danyluk, who picked up 416 career wins, 11 conference titles, and six national championships in 28 years coaching the Bears. And Davidiuk’s first regular season action as head coach looked like a tough test indeed, with Trinity Western coming in to Edmonton for a pair of matches. Beyond their reputation as last year’s national champions, the Spartans were also the Canada West coaches’ preseason pick as conference champions. They received every first-place vote but their own, while Alberta ranked third, behind the Brandon Bobcats.
On Friday, the Spartans lived up to that billing, taking down the Bears in three sets. But Davidiuk’s team improved as the match went on; they lost the first set by a lopsided 25-9 score, but the next two sets were closer at 25-17 and 25-23. And on Saturday, they came out firing and edged Trinity Western in five sets, losing the first two sets 25-13 and 25-19, but rebounding to win the next three by scores of 25-19, 25-21 and 15-13.
“It’s a big credit to our guys with how resilient they are. I didn’t have to give them any kind of wake-up call or anything. They stayed composed and present and they fought to the bitter end. I really hope this can be part of our identity.”
Davidiuk’s no stranger to winning, of course. He found a lot of success with the Bears as a setter during his playing career, including a national title in 2005, and then went on to play in Europe and play for (and captain) the Canadian national team. He’s also been involved with this current team as a coach since 2012, first as a part-time volunteer, then as an assistant coach, and then as an associate coach since 2016 after he completed his Master’s of Coaching degree through the university. But Danyluk (who’s still involved with the program in a managing role, focusing on fundraising, advancement and alumni relations) leaves big shoes to fill, and that gets even tougher considering the youth of this year’s Alberta team.
However, some key younger players came up big for the Bears Saturday. Second-year outside hitter Jordan Canham led the way with a team-high and career-high 17 kills (13 in the final three sets), while third-year outside hitter Jackson Kennedy added 11 kills and five digs. And the Alberta squad as a whole bounced back in an impressive way, both from their straight-sets loss Friday and from losing the first two sets Saturday. We’ll see how things go for Davidiuk and the Bears going forward, but a weekend split against the defending national champions sure isn’t the worst way to start a career as a head coach.
Other notable Canada West men’s volleyball results this weekend included the Bobcats winning two matches at home against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (sixth in the coaches’ poll), the Winnipeg Wesmen (seventh) earning a home split against the UBC Thunderbirds (fourth), and the MacEwan Griffins (12th) picking up a road split against the Mount Royal Cougars (eighth).
Defending champion Thunderbirds start with a pair of road wins over Wesmen
The women’s volleyball regular season also got underway in Canada West this weekend, and the defending national champion UBC Thunderbirds earned a couple of road wins against the Winnipeg Wesmen. On Saturday, the Thunderbirds prevailed 3-1 (25-16. 17-25, 25-23, 25-22) despite being held to a .158 attacking percentage, and on Sunday, they won in straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-15) with a .228 attacking percentage and eight service aces. Anna Price led the way for UBC, posting 12 kills and 11 digs Saturday and nine kills and 11 digs Sunday, while Gabrielle Attieh had 12 kills Saturday and eight Sunday.
It’s significant to see UBC starting well, as despite their national title last season, they’ve faced a lot of turnover. The Thunderbirds were ranked fourth in the preseason Canada West coaches’ poll, behind the Trinity Western Spartans (the defending conference champions), the Alberta Pandas, and the Mount Royal Cougars, largely thanks to returning no starters from last year’s team. And UBC head coach Doug Reimer said after Saturday’s game it’s going to be a learning process for his team, but he was impressed with some things they did.
"I'm extremely happy with how we played. We did a lot of good things. We've got some experienced players but there's a grand total of zero starters from last year's national championship team. We're going to need to find a way to get it done by committee offensively because we lost a fair bit of our offence. So that was what I was happy about. Individually, I thought we played with good discipline and a good balance of insuring that we were playing free and going for it without too many errors."
Other notable Canada West women’s volleyball results saw the Spartans (ranked first in that coaches’ poll) pick up an opening road sweep over the Pandas (second), the third-ranked Mount Royal Cougars get a home sweep against the seventh-ranked MacEwan Griffins (but with a close five-set match Saturday), and the Regina Cougars (13th) pick up a home split against the UBCO Heat (10th).
No. 3 Gaels beat No. 4 Gryphons for second OUA title
The Queen’s Gaels have had quite the OUA women’s rugby season, including picking up the No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history back in September. They were at No. 3 in this week’s Top 10 rankings, and they earned their second-ever OUA women’s rugby title Saturday, taking down the No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (who had previously beat the Gaels in the past two conference title games, and had won the past three OUA titles overall) 46-17 in a home match that was part of the Homecoming festivities at Queen’s.
In that match, the Gaels got two tries from Rachel Hickson and McKinley Hunt, plus single tries from Celia Martensson, Sophie de Goede, Carmen Izyk, Brianna Marty and Gillian Reason. This also marked Queen’s second straight win over Guelph; the first was a 54-19 regular-season victory on Sept. 14, which snapped the Gaels’ nine-game losing streak (regular season and playoff) against the Gryphons. The last Queen’s win over Guelph before this September came in the 2013 OUA title game.
Both the Gaels and Gryphons have qualified for the U SPORTS Women's Rugby Championship, which the Ottawa Gee-Gees will host later this month. The quarterfinal matches there kick off on Oct. 30.
Elsewhere in women’s rugby, the No. 7 UBC Thunderbirds won their first Canada West title with a 26-12 win over the defending champion (and No. 5) Calgary Dinos Sunday to cap off the conference Final Four (hosted by the Lethbridge Pronghorns), while the No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or and No. 6 Ottawa Gee-Gees each prevailed in RSEQ semifinals (against the Concordia Stingers and the No. 10 Sherbrooke Vert et Or respectively) and the No. 8 Acadia Axewomen beat the UPEI Panthers 52-26 in the AUS semifinal to earn a date with the No. 2 StFX X-Women (the defending conference and national champions) in the conference final.
No. 2 Rouge et Or take down No. 5 Carabins
One of the most notable U SPORTS football clashes this weekend came in RSEQ play, where the Laval Rouge et Or and Montreal Carabins again faced off. The Rouge et Or are the defending RSEQ and national champions, but they lost 23-18 on the road to the Carabins back on Sept. 14.
However, Laval has been on a roll since then, while Montreal fell on the road to unranked Sherbrooke last week. So the Rouge et Or entered this game ranked second nationally, while the Carabins were fifth, and Laval emerged with a 16-3 home win Sunday, handing Montreal their second-straight loss.
The Rouge et Or defence was key to victory in this one, holding the Carabins to 181 passing yards, 99 rushing yards and three points. Linebacker Adam Auclair led the way with nine and a half tackles and an interception, while defensive back Souleymane Karamoko had seven and a half tackles, a sack and an interception.
Other notable U SPORTS football results this week included the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies falling 38-37 on the road to the UBC Thunderbirds in Canada West action, the No. 1 Western Mustangs beating the No. 8 Ottawa Gee-Gees 32-23 on the road in OUA play to finish a third straight undefeated regular season campaign, and the No. 7 Acadia Axemen picking up a 28-18 home win over the Saint Mary’s Huskies to improve to 7-0 in AUS play.
No. 1 Capers best No. 8 X-Men, while Stingers earn draw with No. 2 Carabins
AUS men’s soccer saw a significant Top 10 clash this week, with the No. 1 Cape Breton Capers (7-0-1 in regular-season play) hosting the No. 8 StFX X-Men (7-1-1) Friday. The Capers wound up picking up a 3-1 win thanks to two goals from Caelan Budhoo and one from Cory Bent.
Cape Breton rounded out the weekend with a 1-0 win over the Memorial Sea-Hawks off an 88th-minute goal from Marcus Campanile. Other notable U SPORTS soccer action this week included the No. 2 Montreal Carabins being held to a 1-1 road draw by the Concordia Stingers in RSEQ play Friday, the No. 3 York Lions picking up a pair of 1-0 OUA wins (on the road against the Western Mustangs and at home against the Windsor Lancers), the Trinity Western Spartans picking up a 4-1 home win over the No. 5 UBC Thunderbirds in Canada West play Friday (helped by a hat trick from Cody Fransen), and the No. 4 Carleton Ravens besting the No. 6 Ryerson Rams 1-0 in OUA play at home Saturday, getting some revenge for their road loss last week.
Social media posts of the week
In other Hall of Fame news, the Canada West Hall of Fame inducted Victoria Vikes’ field hockey legend Rochelle Low this week:
In other news, Sandy Silver, a long-time presence in the Canadian volleyball community whose work included head coaching stints with the York Lions and UBC Thunderbirds, passed away this week. Silver was also involved with Volleyball Canada, Volleyball BC, and many other Canadian volleyball groups. Volleyball Canada put out a nice tribute to her:
Also in women’s volleyball, Toronto Varsity Blues alum Charlotte Sider was part of the Canadian team that won bronze in 4X4 international beach volleyball competition at the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar this week:
And in international men’s volleyball, the Canadian senior indoor men’s team finished play at the 2019 FIVB World Cup with a five-set (22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 23-25,15-9) loss to hosts Japan this week. McMaster alum Stephen Maar led Canada with 26 points.
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