Gaels off to a hot start

‘I can’t remember a time like this’

A McMaster tackler tries to drag down Queen’s centre Steve Shortly in last weekend’s game.
Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
A McMaster tackler tries to drag down Queen’s centre Steve Shortly in last weekend’s game.

It has been a September to remember for the Queen’s Golden Gaels.

After the university released an athletics review in June stressing the need for financial support of interuniversity sports and suggesting cutting 10 to 16 of them to make that possible, varsity teams have had one of their most successful Septembers ever.

The football team has started 4-0 for the first time since 1989, when receiver and current TSN analyst Jock Climie starred for the team. They’re ranked seventh nationally.

Both rugby teams are 3-0, with the men outscoring opponents 185-13 so far this season.

The men’s and women’s soccer teams have a combined two losses in 17 games, with the men ranked 10th in the country. The women’s soccer team is especially impressive due to their loss of six starters from last season, including CIS player of the year Eilish McConville.

Along with recent outstanding performances by the cross country and rowing teams, it seems the Gaels can’t go wrong.

Assistant Sports Information Officer Bill Miklas, who has been involved with Queen’s athletics since 1984, said he can’t recall a start as successful as this season.

“I can’t remember a time like this. … It always seems like when football and rugby are doing well, soccer is weak, or vice versa,” he said. “I don’t remember a weekend like last weekend when everybody won. I’ve never seen that.”

Miklas said he attributes the early success to the large number of veteran athletes.

“The strong recruits are now becoming veteran players and are in their fourth and fifth year,” he said. “Teams are successful because you don’t have the same turnover.”

The football team has also seen some individual recognition, with Chris Smith being named the CIS defensive player of the week. The Score television network has modified its schedule to nationally televise the Gaels for the second straight week on Saturday.

Receiver Rob Bagg said although the players are aware of their historic start to this year, they don’t think about it very much.

“We’ve had other great teams that have been here,” he said. “In my first year we were 7-1. If you don’t continue to play well then there’s no point in thinking about it.”

Head coach Pat Sheahan said he expected his team to have success early.

“Some other people may be surprised that we’re here, but

we’re not,” he said.

Rugby head coach Peter Huigenbos attributes his team’s success to its strong developmental program.

“We had over 70 players in the off-season put a lot of time into training hard in the gym and we have definitely put on a lot of size, strength and speed, which has had a huge impact on our performance on the pitch,” he said.

The timing for all of the early-season success is interesting given the recent release of the Athletics Review. Chair of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said she sees a direct correlation between the two.

“Perhaps the biggest factor is the Athletic Review and a stated expectation regarding the performance levels of our teams (and yes perhaps a bit of self-preservation too!),” she said in an e-mail.

Miklas, on the other hand, said the timing is just a coincidence.

“Some coaches might want to use that, but right now [the review is in] consultation so nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “I would say it’s a coincidence.”

Huigenbos said the review may have made some teams more aware of their performance.

“The review and the rumblings that started last year really had teams stand up and take notice of how they go about doing things,” he said. “Personally, commenting on the review really made me think of the direction of our program and areas we need to improve upon in order to have long-term success.”

Regardless of why the teams have had such great success, October and November are shaping up to be exciting months for Queen’s sports fans if the trend continues.

Sheahan said his team isn’t resting on its laurels.

“The guys have earned the accolades so far. They would be well-served not to fall in love with themselves.”

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