Vikes teams head into championship month

November is a stressful month for most students, with midterms in full swing and finals not too far away. For plenty of varsity athletes, however, November means something entirely different: championship time.

Several varsity teams from UVic are either heading into or have already competed in their respective season finales. Here’s a breakdown of what team is up against for championship season.

ROWING

Oct. 28 will be remembered as a golden afternoon for the women’s rowing team, who won five competitions to best UBC and claim first place at the Western Canadian University Rowing Championships.

Each gold medal came from a separate competition: the first from the women’s four (a boat of Kirsten McKay, Judy Beestermoeller, Layla Balooch, Lise McCracken, and coxswain Jess Wallace); the second from women’s single (Caileigh Filmer winning her first of three gold medals); the third from women’s pair (Avalon Wasteneys and Filmer finished three seconds ahead of another Vikes pair of Olivia King and Morgan Cathrea); the fourth from junior women’s eight (McKay, Beestermoeller, Imogen White, Roza Kalashnikoff, Layla Balooch, Kirsten Edwards, Piper Battersby, Elise McCracken and coxswain Hannah Kennedy); and the fifth from the varsity eight team (Cathrea, King, Chapman, Wasteneys, Filmer, McKenna Simpson, Larissa McKinlay, Jessica Stewart, and coxswain Cassidy Fernandes).

It’s the first time the Vikes women have won the Western Championship since winning three in a row in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Their male counterparts, racing on the same day, were unable to match the women’s medal takeaway, but certain teams still performed well. The men finished second in the championship,  losing to UBC, despite winning three gold medals overall.

Patrick Keane won one of the three Vikes men’s gold medals in the men’s lightweight single category, before Lucien Brodeur won the Vikes men’s second goal medal by finishing a whole 17 seconds ahead of second place in the men’s singles.

The third and final gold medal came in the men’s pair — a thrilling race that started with a collision between the UBC boat and the Vikes boat (commandeered by Mathew Szymanowski and Taylor Perry). Although UBC used the commotion to take the lead for most of the race, Szymanowski and Perry recovered enough to win by just 0.8 seconds.

Both the men’s and women’s teams head to nationals next, which will be held at Burnaby Lake on Nov. 4–5.

CROSS COUNTRY

Oct. 28 saw a similar outcome for the UVic women’s and men’s cross country teams: the women clinched gold while the men fell just short.

Both teams competed at the B.C. Provincial Championships in Abbotsford, which saw four Vikes women runners finish in the top 25 (Alison Hooper in 12th, Emma Edmonds in 13th, Chloe Hegland in 18th, and Emma Bibault in 25th).

The best individual Vikes performance came from first-year Brandon Vail, who finished eighth overall. With solid performances from the rest of the men’s team (Derrick Evans in 11th, Ben Weir in 14th, Josh Kozelj in 17th, Angus Brown in 21st, and Thomas Oxland in 24th), they found themselves temporarily tied on points with UBC. But since UBC’s fifth runner finished ahead of UVic’s fifth runner, the tie was broken and UVic had to settle for silver.

Neither team will have to travel far for nationals , as they will be hosted at Beacon Hill Park on Nov. 12.

RUGBY

It was heartbreak for the women’s rugby team on Oct. 22, who were seconds away from clinching a Canada West gold medal before the Calgary Dinos scored a game-winning try to take the match to 26–21.

Only one team would be Canada West’s representative at the National Championships in Lethbridge, Alta., and it seemed as though that would be the Vikes, who led 21–19 right up until the final minute of the game. With seconds remaining, the Vikes backline stopped one Calgary attack, and then a second. They couldn’t, however, prevent U of C first-year Berlyn Seselja from capitalizing on a third and fatal push that won Calgary the game.

It will be a disappointing end to the season for the whole team and players like Tiffany Picketts, Julia Folk, Kara Galbraith, and Jess Neilson, who have performed well for the women’s rugby team for the past four or five years. They, along with third-year Chanelle Edwards-Challenger, were named conference all-stars.

While the women didn’t quite make it, the Vikes’ rugby program will be represented nationally by their men’s team. After a 72–0 thrashing against UBCO on Oct. 29, the Vikes will join UBC as one of two Western Canadian teams present at the University National Championships in Guelph, Ontario.

After a shaky start to the season that saw the men’s rugby team win just once in six games, the team came into their own over the Oct. 28–29 weekend. They beat the Calgary Dinos 72–0 before defeating UBCO by the same score the next day. Second-year centre Mostyn Findlay stood out for the Vikes, with four tries against Calgary and another one against UBCO.

With momentum on their side, they’ll start nationals on Nov. 16.

SOCCER

On home soil at Centennial Stadium on Oct. 21, the men’s soccer team were also the victims of last-minute heartbreak. The Trinity Western University Spartans scored four times in the second half to come back and win 4–2, dashing the UVic men’s hopes of advancing to the post-season.

Only needing a draw to advance, the Vikes would have fancied their chances when Michael Baart put them up 2–1 in the 60th minute after capitalizing on a mistake from a Spartans defender. But outshot 24–4, the Vikes couldn’t hold the TWU onslaught back forever. The Vikes lost the lead after conceding twice in two minutes, and a stoppage time goal sealed their fate.

This year has been one of rebuilding for the Vikes men’s soccer team, and they should be encouraged to know they could get this close to post-season action with a young squad.

The women’s soccer team, however, are built for playoff action — and that’s what they’ll get, too, after qualifying for the Canada West Final Four with a 1–0 win against the Calgary Dinos.

Caitlin Millham scored the game’s only goal in the 25th minute, and although the visiting Dinos put pressure on in the second half, the Vikes looked comfortable seeing out the game and heading into the conference semi-finals.

They’ll be relying on the strength of veteran midfielder Kiara Kilbey (ten assists this season) and new goalkeeper Puck Louwes (11 clean sheets this season) when they face Edmonton’s MacEwan Griffins on Nov. 3 for their first game of the Final Four.

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