High hopes for women’s field hockey as championship begins

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The 40th annual Women’s Field Hockey Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship kicks off this Thursday, Nov. 5, hosted by the number one nationally ranked University of Victoria Vikes. The Vikes are looking to win their 12th national championship, and reclaim their first McRae Cup since 2008.

The Vikes, unbeaten through their Canada West season, finished with a 7-0-1 record. They are the number one seed in the tournament, competing against three other teams: UBC, University of Toronto, and Guelph University.

This will be the 34th time the Vikes women’s field hockey team has competed in the CIS championship, winning gold eleven times. Another gold medal in 2015 would pull the Vikes ahead of U of T, currently tied with UVic for championship titles.

The Vikes are a force to reckon with this season with a single loss on record: a pre-season exhibition match with Harvard University. The team racked up 16 goals in the regular season, with a lone goal scored against them in their solitary tie against UBC.

Despite UBC historically being the strongest team in the Canada West women’s field hockey division — UBC have won the past four CIS championships — the Vikes proved their mettle early on this season, beating the reigning champions 3-0 and 2-0 in their opening two games of the season.

Our women went from strength to strength, impressively stoic in defense and lethal in attack, with talent spread all across the team. One of their strengths comes from the sheer plethora of offensive stars; forward Amanda Kurianowicz scored four goals, the most in Canada West play, and along with three other Vikes players — Andrea Jones, Alanna Macdonald, Lizzie Yates — took four of the top five spots on the Canada West scoring charts.

While the Vikes and UBC sides know each other quite well, Toronto and Guelph offer themselves as something of an unknown quantity.

Toronto, the number two seed, finished their regular season with 11 wins and 1 loss, finishing a perfect 2-0 in the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) Conference. Amanda Woodcroft is the player to watch on the Toronto Varsity Blues, with two goals in the OUA gold medal game against Guelph and a finish in the conference all-star team.

While Guelph finished second in their conference, they remain strong contenders for first place at the CIS championship. Their 11-1 record in the regular season, was fuelled by the scoring performances of forwards Olivia Lane and Allison Chute. The duo scored a combined 32 goals in 12 games, and they will be looking to further their tallies on the national stage.  

While they finished second in the Canada West conference, UBC nonetheless pose a significant threat to the Vikes. Hannah Haughn, the midfielder/forward, was the conference MVP, and the fourth-year student will be looking to lead her team to their fifth consecutive CIS championship victory.

For the Vikes, top scorer Kurianowicz and defender/midfielder Kathleen Leahy will need to continue their outstanding regular season form to give the home team their first championship win in seven years.

Even among a tightly packed field of well-heeled contenders, the Vikes stand above the crowd. With in-form players, an award-winning coach in Lynne Beecroft, and with a strong home crowd, this just might be the year the stars align for the Vikes.

The women’s field hockey team play at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, 4 p.m. on Nov. 6, and 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. The bronze-medal game is at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, and the gold-medal game is at 3 p.m. on the same day. 

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