Women's soccer tops varsity power rankings

Sports Editors Gilbert Coyle and Benjamin Deans evaluate the Gaels’ performances this fall

The women’s soccer team won provincial and national gold medals this season.
The women’s soccer team won provincial and national gold medals this season.

1. Women’s soccer

No one came close to the women’s soccer team this season.

The Gaels won their second consecutive national championship and lost only one game all year, finishing 19-1-2. They even improved on last season, when their record was 19-3.

This team was clutch. Three of its playoff wins went to penalty kicks, including both the provincial and national championship games. Goalkeeper Chantel Marson came through with crucial shootout saves and earned the CIS MVP award.

The team had depth too. When co-captain and defender Brienna Shaw missed the first nine games of the season, OUA East rookie of the year Jessie De Boer filled the role. When co-captain Kelli Chamberlain sat out for the OUA championship with a knee injury, rookie Breanna Burton filled in.

Chamberlain, Marson and Shaw are all set to graduate, but the Gaels still have OUA scoring leader Jackie Tessier, OUA East MVP Riley Filion and OUA all-star Melissa Jung. A three-peat is a possibility.

— Benjamin Deans

2. Men’s rugby

After last season’s bronze medal, the men’s rugby team brought back some old players to form a much stronger lineup this season. Forwards Tim and Pat Richardson returned for graduate school after a year away and flyhalf Liam Underwood was back after missing 2010 with an ankle injury. With the emergence of George Gleeson and Myles Dingwall as key players, the Gaels often looked as good as the 2009 OUA gold medal-winning team.

A 13-7 loss to the Western Mustangs was the only blip in a 7-1 regular season that included a 47-3 blowout against the McMaster Marauders, the defending OUA champions. Underwood led the OUA in total points, while Dingwall, Gleeson, Matt Kelly and Dan Moor joined him on the OUA all-star team.

The Gaels beat the Marauders for a second time at Tindall field in the OUA semifinal, but they couldn’t overcome the Mustangs in the final, falling 21-15 in London.

A silver medal was an appropriate result for the Gaels. With team Canada player Conor Trainor and OUA MVP Mike Penczak, the Mustangs were clearly the best team in the province.

— Gilbert Coyle

3. Cross country

Going into the season, the men were expected to challenge for the national podium and the women were expected to rebuild. That’s pretty much how it ended up.

The men should be satisfied with a bronze medal at the OUA Championship and a fourth-place finish at nationals. After an injury-plagued season, the team saved its best race for when it counted, only missing out on a national medal after a surprising performance from the Victoria Vikes.

Transfer student Maxime Leboeuf, MA ’13, was the team’s top runner, while second-year Jeff Archer posted a surprising 10th-place finish at nationals. Rookie Dave Cashin showed potential by leading the team at the Queen’s Invitational, while Clay Patterson led at the Paul Short Run and the Guelph Open.

Captain Oliver Hatheway is the only key runner set to graduate, so the men’s team is expected to reach the podium in 2012.

The women’s team earned a surprising OUA bronze medal, but came 10th at nationals. Captain Steph Hulse was the team’s leading runner at every meet, while Alecia Kallos was the second-best runner at the OUA and CIS meets. With Hulse, Kallos, Lauren Prufer and Colleen Wilson also set to return, the women should be a better team next season.

— Gilbert Coyle

4. Football

They weren’t close to the Vanier Cup, but the Gaels improved from last year.

Their new starting quarterback Billy McPhee guided the team to a 6-2 regular season finish. A rib injury prevented McPhee from starting in the playoffs, but Queen’s still reached the OUA semifinal. That’s a better ending than last season, when the Gaels lost to McMaster in a quarter-final.

The Gaels relied on defence all season and it worked for them against mediocre teams. But to compete against the top teams in the OUA, the Gaels needed a more powerful offence.

When McPhee was at his best, the team could rely on him to pick up first downs and throw the occasional long bomb for a touchdown. Even though he had turnover troubles against better defences, he has the potential to be a major OUA passing threat by next year.

It’s not clear which veterans will return, but the loss of graduating lineman Osie Ukwuoma — the Gaels best defensive player — will hurt the team. If the offence can improve enough though, the team should make it to the Yates Cup.

— Benjamin Deans

5. Rowing

Both the men’s and women’s teams failed to meet their own expectations this fall. The women aimed to repeat last season’s OUA title, while the men looked to improve on their bronze medal. They finished second and third, respectively.

The women only narrowly missed out on OUA gold. Rookie Erin Snelgrove won the lightweight single race and the lightweight eight also finished first. Snelgrove also won a silver medal in the lightweight double event with Sean Peterson. The lightweight four and the heavyweight eight also finished second.

On the men’s side, the lightweight four- and eight-person boats both won bronze medals but the heavyweight boats all missed the podium.

Even though the rowing program underperformed this season, 16 of 20 men’s rowers and 19 of 27 women’s rowers were first- or second-year students. After being named as a training development centre for the Canadian Olympic program this summer, the Gaels’ crews were selected by coaches who work for the national program. With that strategy in place, improvements are expected for next season.

— Gilbert Coyle

6. Women’s rugby

Only one game separated the women’s rugby team that clinched its first-ever national championship appearance last season from the team that won an OUA bronze medal this season.

In 2010, the Gaels beat the McMaster Marauders in the regular season to win the Russell division and earn an easy route to nationals. This season’s 5-3 loss to the Marauders meant the Gaels had to beat the Guelph Gryphons — unbeaten against OUA opposition since 2007 — in the OUA semifinal to qualify for the CIS tournament. They lost 50-0.

But with head coach Beth Barz leaning on several young players, there was some silver lining this season. Second-year props Claragh Pegg and Taylor White were named to the OUA all-star team.

Second-year lock Bronwyn Corrigan was the team’s highest scorer with 20 points, second-year forward Kayla Roote scored a last-second try to beat the Trent Excalibur in the OUA quarter-final and rookie Lauren McEwen scored last-minute game-winning tries in two games this season. As long as the Gryphons dynasty continues, the women’s rugby team’s only realistic goal will be second place in Ontario. But its young players are good enough to make it happen in 2012.

— Gilbert Coyle

7. Men’s Soccer

The men’s soccer team was supposed to have a rebuilding season. With six first- and second-year starters and injuries to veteran players, the team finished the regular season at 7-4-3, down from 8-5-1 last year.

The Gaels were wildly erratic. They showed potential in their upset over the Carleton Ravens and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues — the OUA East’s two best teams. But they often looked like an inexperienced team, blowing late-game leads four times this season.

Early in the season, the Gaels beat the sixth-place Trent Excalibur 3-0 at home, but lost to them 1-0 in Peterborough the following week.

They were inconsistent when it counted most. They conceded late goals to the Laurentian Voyageurs in both regular season games. When the Gaels played the Voyageurs in the first round of the playoffs, they gave up a late goal again and ultimately watched their season end on penalty kicks.

But the future looks bright for the Gaels. Rookie midfielder Peter Christidis was the team’s leading scorer, rookie midfielder Henry Bloemen started almost every game this season and second-year captain Joe Zupo is already a two-time OUA all-star.

Despite the loss of fifth-years Andrew Colosimo and Jordan Brooks, the team should be better next year.

— Benjamin Deans

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