UVic’s autumn athletic season ends on high note

The fall, whether it was on the field, court or track, saw constant action for Vikes athletes. So buckle up as we catch you up on the world of varsity and club athletics at UVic this fall, as well as preview what lies ahead in the upcoming semester.

One of the Vikes’ greatest successes of the fall came from the women’s soccer team. UVic hosted nationals for the first time since 2006 and used the home-field advantage to emerge with an impressive bronze medal, the team’s best result since 2005. Emma Greig was the Vikes’ standout player of the year, leading the Canada West conference with 14 goals.

The men’s soccer team enjoyed success this year, too, though not on the scale they had hoped for. Fresh off their 2011 national championship title, the Vikes were expected to contend again this season. Road games plagued them, however, as the men put up a 0-5-2 record away from home. Despite this, their superb record at Centennial Stadium of 6-1-0 was enough to see them into playoffs.

The Canada West playoffs saw the road woes continue as the Vikes fell 2–0 to the Saskatchewan Huskies in Edmonton to end their season. Despite the early exit, there were positives to be taken away from this season.

“We’re a team that strives to be successful at home,” said midfielder Wesley Barrett. As for the away struggles, he said, “Whatever the conditions are, we need to be prepared. Whether it be snow or minus temperatures, we’ll be better prepared for the next time those conditions happen.”

Midfielder Cam Hundal, last year’s Canada West Rookie of the Year and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Nationals MVP, was happy with the performance of the younger players on the team.

“Guys got a chance to step up, and we started to come together towards the end of the season. It was a good rebuilding year for us, and I think we’ll be a lot stronger next year,” said Hundal.

As the soccer seasons came to a close, UVic’s most well attended sport, basketball, began. The men’s team kicked the season off with a strong showing in the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament, named in honour of the legendary former Vikes men’s basketball coach. The Vikes defeated the Lethbridge Pronghorns and Alberta Golden Bears to finish second in the tournament, their only loss being to the reigning national champions, the Carleton Ravens.

The positive finish left the team feeling excited for the start of the regular season. “We’re one of the top teams [in Canada West] . . . we got to play the number one team. That’s what shows us where we are in the country, so it’s a good placement early in the season,” said guard Vijay Dhillon.

The men rode this momentum into the season, winning their first four games in impressive fashion. Despite going .500 in their past six games, the Vikes still have an impressive record heading into the Canada West winter break. The men won’t be taking it too easy, though: they travel to California at the end of December to match their skills against the Biola Eagles in La Mirada before taking on the Concordia Eagles in Irvine.

The women’s basketball team has been tearing it up on the court this season. After going 8–1 in their preseason tour of Canada, the women have put up a string of strong performances, which included going unbeaten at home in the McKinnon Gym until their last two games of the fall season.

Associate coach Dani Sinclair credits the girls’ hard work for the team’s early success. “We’ve been playing well as a team,” she said. “The girls have bought into playing tough. We’ve been trying to focus a lot defensively on stopping teams, and we’ve done a better job of that.”

Like their male counterparts, they won’t be seeing much time off this month. Said Sinclair, “The girls only get about 10 days off in December; after that, we get into Christmas practices. We practice for about 10 or 12 days. It’s a good time to focus on fundamentals and conditioning.” The women are taking a late December trip of their own, playing games in Los Angeles to close out the year.

Heading back to the field, we’ll take a look at the men’s rugby team next. They have had a steady season, posting a 5–5 record as they enter their winter break. Highlights of the year include a 54–28 thrashing of the UBC Thunderbirds at Wallace Field, along with a recent hard-fought away win over the Castaway Wanderers 23–17.

Head coach Doug Tate has been impressed. “The players have been doing the right things preparing for games,” said Tate. “The new players have been coming in; not too many usually play for the varsity team. They’re a pretty impressive group . . . it looks good for the future.”

Tate plans to make some adjustments before games pick up again in 2013, however. “We’re spending six to eight weeks in the weight room. Size and strength is going to be a big factor, so we’re concentrating on that.”

Reinforcements will also be key to the second half of the Vikes’ season. “We have some players right now with the national team, so those players will be back,” said Tate.

The track has also been home to UVic athletic achievements. The Canadian Cross Country Championships on Nov. 24 saw several impressive Vikes performances. Senior Brittany Therrien placed 17th in the senior women’s seven-kilometre race. Second-year Ryan Cassidy ran a stellar race, finishing seventh in the senior men’s 10-kilometre race. His teammate Doug Oxland also did well in the race, finishing 14th.

This follows dominant results by UVic at the CIS Cross Country Championships in London, Ontario, on Nov. 10. The women placed fourth overall in the five-kilometre race, good enough to win the Canada West title. They were spurred on by fine performances from Therrien and third-year Jenna Van Vliet. The men also came fourth, competing in the 10-kilometre race, also winning the Canada West title. Third-year Dylan Haight led the way for the Vikes, while Cassidy put in a fast time of his own on the way to the high finish.

On the water, UVic’s women’s rowing team won its third Canadian University Rowing Championship title in November. The men won silver after Brock University beat them out by one point.

Varsity sports are popular at UVic, but there is also strong participation in the many club teams our school has to offer. The 2012 Canadian University Ultimate Championships were hosted in Kelowna this October, and UVic attended for the first time since 2008. The women’s team (UVixens) took home gold, beating rival UBC twice during the tournament. The men (UVictim) brought home some hardware too, defeating U of A in the bronze medal match.

Hockey has also been a successful club sport at UVic this season, with the men’s hockey team putting up the third best record so far this season in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League.

More excitement awaits UVic sports fans. The men’s and women’s basketball teams begin their pivotal second half of the season in January, as they each make a push for the CIS Championships in March.

The Canada West champion cross country teams will look to continue their 2012 success with a pair of tournaments in Washington in January. February sees the return of UVic men’s rugby, as well as a high-profile men’s soccer game between the Vikes and a Major League Soccer (MLS) team, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Along with other varsity sports, as well as the many club teams UVic boasts, the 2013 athletic season is looking to be as exciting as the one we just witnessed.

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