Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, recapping the best U SPORTS stories from the week across Canada West, the OUA, RSEQ, and the AUS.
Sports events across the world have been shut down to concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and that included U SPORTS national championships in men’s and women's hockey and men’s and women’s volleyball. Those decisions were obviously hard on many involved, from hosting schools to participating teams to partner organizations, but they prompted many thoughtful posts about the situation. Here are some from those various sports, plus updates from the U SPORTS/Curling Canada Championships (which were held):
The 2020 U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship was set to be hosted by the Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg, MB. The university sent out a nice tribute to the team after the cancellation news, and hosted a celebration of their season with a farewell lunch Friday.
The volleyball championships were set to be particularly special for legendary Bisons’ coach Garth Pischke, in his 38th season at the helm of the men’s program and the all-time winningest collegiate coach in North America. This was going to be Manitoba’s second time overall hosting these championships, and their first time hosting them since 1976, so the first time in Pischke’s career they would get to host. And it was going to be a fitting final highlight for Pischke, who announced earlier that this would be his final season. But even with the championships cancelled, Pischke stuck to that retirement plan, telling CBC News’ Marjorie Dowhos that he felt like he’d seen it all:
“It's disappointing that it happened like this, but I'm not disappointed for myself, I'm disappointed for my players and my staff.”
“…I've been through a lot of things and I've been to a lot of national championships, and I guess that's what makes it a little bit harder. I know how important, how exciting … how gratifying it is for the players.”
“I've been so fortunate that really, that's why I'm so ready to retire. I feel like I've done it all. You know not just my playing career, but my coaching career in Manitoba.”
“…I'm extremely comfortable with this being the end of it. And just looking forward to spending a little less time in a gymnasium.”
At the other end of the coaching age spectrum from the 64-year-old Pischke is 32-year-old Queen’s Gaels head coach Gabriel DeGroot, who’s in his second year as the team’s head coach and led them to their third-straight national championship appearance. DeGroot posted a thoughtful reflection on this cancellation on Instagram:
The championships’ awards banquet and All-Canadian Gala was held Wednesday night before the cancellation, with Trinity Western Spartans’ outside hitter Eric Loepkky named Player of the Year, Queen’s outside hitter Erik Siksna named Rookie of the Year, Spartans’ coach Ben Josephson named Fox 40 Coach of the Year, and Brandon Bobcats’ outside hitter Seth Friesen receiving the Dale Iwanoczko Award for Student-Athlete Community Service for excellence on and off the court.
The 2020 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms Women’s Hockey Championship was set to be held in Charlottetown, PEI, hosted by the UPEI Panthers. The school put out a statement saying they understood the decision to cancel the event despite the unfortunate impacts for those involved:
The Alberta Pandas, the top seed and Canada West champions, put out a statement congratulating their team and all other players:
And the host Panthers put out a nice video from the awards banquet:
That banquet saw StFX X-Women forward Tyra Meropoulis receive the Brodrick Trophy as Player of the Year, while Alberta forward Madison Willan was named Rookie of the Year and University of Toronto Varsity Blues coach Vicky Sunohara was named Fox 40 Coach of the Year. McGill defender Emilia Cotter received the Marion Hilliard Award for Student-Athlete Community Service for her work on and off the ice.
The 2020 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup was set to be held in Halifax, NS, jointly hosted by the Acadia Axemen and Sports & Entertainment Atlantic. Acadia AD Kevin Dickie put out a statement about the cancellation:
The top-seeded UNB Reds, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, sent a tweet congratulating their team on a successful season:
Patrick Grandmaître, the head coach of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, sent a tweet with photos of his team and the graduating seniors:
The All-Canadian gala and major awards ceremony was held Wednesday night, with Saskatchewan Huskies goalie Taran Kozun receiving the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy as Player of the Year as well as the Goaltender of the Year award, making history in the process. Saskatchewan forward Levi Cable also received the R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award.
McGill’s Nikolas Brouillard was named Defencemen of the Year, while Saint Mary’s Huskies forward Mitchell Balmas earned the Clare Drake Award as Rookie of the Year, Toronto Varsity Blues’ coach Ryan Medel won the Father George Kehoe Memorial Award as Fox 40 Coach of the Year, and Axemen defenceman Liam Maaskant won the Dr. Randy Gregg Award for Student-Athlete Community Service.
The 2020 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship was set to be held in Calgary, AB, hosted by the Calgary Dinos. The Dinos wished the teams who would have competed safe travels back home:
The third-seeded Dalhousie Tigers, AUS champions, sent out a tweet thanking the Dinos for their work in preparing to host the event:
The fifth-seeded Mount Royal Cougars, Canada West bronze medalists, also thanked the Dinos:
The awards night Thursday saw Dalhousie setter Courtney Baker receive the Mary Lyons Award as Player of the Year, while UBC Okanagan Heat outside hitter Amaya Perry earned the Mark Tennant Award as Rookie of the Year and MacEwan Griffins coach Ken Briggs received the Marilyn Pomfret Award as Fox 40 Coach of the Year. McGill outside hitter Rowan Fletcher earned the Thérèse Quigley Award for Student-Athlete Community Service.
The U SPORTS/Curling Canada Championships went ahead as scheduled in Portage La Prairie, MB this week, and the Laurier Golden Hawks and Alberta Pandas won the men’s and women’s championships, earning the right to represent Canada in the 2021 Winter World University Games in Lucerne, Switzerland. The Pandas beat the UNB Reds 10-2 in the women’s final, stealing seven straight points to do so:
That marked the Pandas’ fourth title in the past six years, but their first since 2017-18. And skip Selena Sturmay said she was particularly excited about getting the chance to represent Canada at those 2021 Winter World University Games, saying “Anytime you get to represent your country at a world competition is an unreal feeling that never gets old.”
On the men’s side, the Golden Hawks won their first national title since 2015-16, and did so with a perfect 9-0 record. And skip Matthew Hall said that was particularly impressive given the tough field, saying “There are so many good teams, so to be able to win it and have such a great week is something you only dream of.”
In speed skating, Laval’s Antoine Roger competed for Canada in the 2020 FISU World University Speed Skating Championship in Amsterdam, competing in the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m events (the mass start, and the rest of the championships, wound up cancelled). He placed ninth, 11th, and 18th respectively in those events.
In wrestling, the Pan-Am Olympic Qualifier played without fans was held in Ottawa this week, and four Canadian wrestlers qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Jordie Steen and Amar Dhesi on the men’s side and Erica Wiebe and Danielle Lappage on the women’s side. Lappage is a Calgary Dinos alum, while Steen is a Concordia Stingers alum.
And in women’s soccer, the Canadian senior women’s team recorded a 2-2 draw with Brazil in their last match of the Tournoi de France played without fans Wednesday, with Manitoba Bisons’ alum Desiree Scott coming in as a substitute in that match played without fans.
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