Fall teams look to improve across the board

Nationally-ranked football, women’s soccer and women’s rugby teams highlight 2012 Gaels lineup

Queen’s defense will have to account for the loss of two key linemen to challenge for the 2012 Yates Cup.
Queen’s defense will have to account for the loss of two key linemen to challenge for the 2012 Yates Cup.
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The women’s soccer team enters the 2012 season ranked #1 in the country.
The women’s soccer team enters the 2012 season ranked #1 in the country.
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Football

With 20 starters returning from last year, the Queen’s Gaels will begin the 2012 football season ranked 6th in the country. On a team replete with individual talent at every position, their shot at the Yates Cup will hinge on the maturation of one player: quarterback Billy McPhee.

Last year, Queen’s performance largely mirrored its quarterback. The Gaels’ only losses came in the season’s first two games, when McPhee and the offense were finding their stride, and in the OUA semifinal against the eventual Vanier Cup champion McMaster Marauders, when McPhee was sidelined with a rib injury.

With quarterback Kyle Quinlan returning, McMaster is a safe bet to repeat as OUA champs. While McPhee isn’t on the same level as the Vanier Cup MVP, he’s poised to become one of Ontario’s top quarterbacks in his second season as a starter.

As it stands, the Gaels offense has no discernable weaknesses. Athletic receivers Giovanni Aprile and Justin Chapdelaine complement the hard-nosed Ryan Granberg, who is looking to defend his CIS rushing title. Anchored by three OUA All-Stars, the offensive line remains intact from 2011.

The team’s most significant losses are linemen Osie Ukwuoma and Frank Pankewich, two key members of a defensive unit that did not allow a rushing touchdown last season. The progression of Derek Wiggan and John Miniaci should mitigate their departures, and while Ukwuoma’s singular impact will be difficult to replicate, the front seven remains one of the OUA’s best.

The Gaels defensive backs looked vulnerable at times in 2011, but contributed several big plays that swung the momentum of games. TJ Chase-Dunawa and Andrew Lue were conference All-Stars, while Joshua Sultana and Ben D’Andrea are experienced veterans with size.

Coach Pat Sheahan, entering his 13th season with the Gaels, secured one of the top recruiting classes in school history this off-season. Rookie kicker Dillon Wamsley already looks like a viable replacement for Dan Village, who showed inconsistency last season.

Queen’s toughest games will both come on the road: Sept. 22 at McMaster and Oct. 6 against a dangerous Windsor squad. The home contest against Western on Sept. 15 could determine second place in the OUA, which guarantees a bye through to the semifinals.

A 7-1 record is certainly within reach for this year’s Gaels. If all goes right, Queen’s will be poised for a rematch with Quinlan and the Marauders in the Yates Cup. With a healthy and motivated McPhee, it’s anyone’s game.

— Nick Faris

Women's Soccer

Two consecutive CIS national titles explain the gaping target on the back of the Gaels women’s soccer team this season.

Their 2010 campaign saw them capture the program’s first national trophy since 1988.

With a repeat performance at the tournament in Montreal last fall, they remain unbeaten.

Expect the OUA’s Toronto Varsity Blues and Ottawa Gee-Gees to contend in 2012, while the Montreal Carabins could return strong in the CIS tournament this November in Victoria, B.C.

The Varsity Blues (11-2-3) were the only team to beat Queen’s (13-1-2) in 2011. On Wednesday the Gee-Gees beat the Gaels 3-0, handing them their fourth loss in three years.

With two notable departures from last year, the depth of head coach Dave McDowell’s roster will be put to the test in certain key positions. Striker Kelli Chamberlain and goalkeeper Chantel Marson demonstrated quality and experience that were crucial during the two-year reign.

Marson’s exceptional career as a Gael was highlighted by two penalty kick victories in the 2011 national semi-finals and gold medal match. Her former back-up, third-year Sabrina Carew, will replace her in goal.

Chamberlain scored 32 career goals in five seasons at Queen’s. Her last strike was the final penalty kick in last year’s CIS championship.

Her former attacking counterpart Jackie Tessier now leads the offensive charge, alongside second-year striker Breanna Burton. Fourth year midfielders Alexis McKinty and Riley Filion are expected to chip in offensively.

On defense, Summer Rybicki and Brienna Shaw will be missed. The Gaels’ midfield lost Angela Sullivan, but the rest remains completely intact.

With a strong veteran core set to return, the Gaels are the furthest thing from rebuilding.

— Peter Morrow

Men's Soccer

This year’s Gaels team is going to have to perform when it matters most: the playoffs.

In 2011 the Gaels finished fourth in the OUA East division, only to lose in penalties to the 5th-seeded Laurentian Voyageurs at home in the quarter-final. They’ve lost in the first round in three of the last four years, despite strong regular season play.

Third-year All-Stars Joseph Zupo and David Tom anchor a defense that conceded just 16 goals last season, 5th in the OUA. Midfielder Peter Christidis led the 2011 Gaels in scoring as a rookie, while striker Eric Koskins netted two goals in pre-season action.

Veterans Jordan Brooks and Andrew Colosimo have graduated, while midfielder Eric Cappon will not return to the team. Nevertheless, Queen’s stands to benefit from the extensive experience their young players gained last season. A top-three finish and a second-round playoff berth are within reach.

— Nick Faris

Men's Rugby

The sheer depth of the men’s rugby program puts them consistently in OUA championship contention.

With five to six reserve teams and over 100 players to draw from, head coach Peter Huigenbos has a recipe for success. They last won OUA gold in 2009, earned a bronze medal in 2010 and were runners-up last year to the Western Mustangs.

Not much changed since 2011 – the Mustangs are still the biggest obstacle to reclaim the OUA title. Skilled winger Mike Wong won’t return, but a host of top-end players are reaching their upper years.

Gaels fourth year fly-half Liam Underwood led the OUA in points in 2011. Underwood trained with the Canadian men’s national team in June, and this could be his last season leading the Gaels attack. Brothers Tim and Pat Richardson are returning for a fifth season.

Captain Dan Moor enters his fourth year as a center to bolster the experienced Queen’s backline, while fourth-year forwards Matt Kelly and Jacob Rumball have previous experience with Canada’s under-20 squad.

The home opener is Sept. 22 at 1 p.m., on brand new Nixon Field. The Gaels will host Western in what could be an OUA championship preview.

— Peter Morrow

Women's Rugby

The Gaels are looking to re-establish themselves as national competitors.

Two years removed from their last trip to the CIS championships, the women’s rugby team will turn to a new leadership core in 2012. While Susan Heald and Rachelle Kranenburg return for their fifth seasons, decorated leaders Andrea Wadsworth and Sam Trinier have left.

Claragh Pegg and Taylor White were both All-Stars last season, while fellow third-years Bronwyn Corrigan and Kayla Roote will provide stability up front for the Gaels. Rookie Nadia Popov and second-year Gillian Pegg highlight the team’s young core.

The upper echelon of OUA women’s rugby is firmly entrenched: Guelph in first, then Queen’s and McMaster battling for second and third. The Gryphons haven’t lost an OUA game in four years, conceding just 27 total points during that span. With the bulk of their roster returning, they’re a lock to clinch a fifth straight OUA title.

For the Gaels to qualify for the CIS championships, they’ll need to win their division, avoiding Guelph until the OUA final and clinching the conference’s second national bid. In each of the past two seasons, the winner of the Queen’s-McMaster regular season matchup has won the OUA’s Russell Division and advanced to the provincial final, with the loser falling to Guelph in the semis.

If the Gaels win in Hamilton on Sept. 22, they will almost certainly qualify for nationals. If they lose, the Marauders will go for a second straight year.

— Nick Faris

Cross Country

With at least five runners in third-year standing or higher, the men’s cross country team is in good form to improve on a stellar 2011 season.

The team earned a bronze medal in last year’s OUA finals in Ottawa, behind the Guelph Gryphons and Windsor Lancers. They went on to earn fourth place at Nationals, where they’ll be looking to reach the podium this November.

Fourth-years Maxime Leboeuf, Jeff Costen and Andrew Courchene will lead the men. Jeff Archer placed in the top 10 of last year’s CIS championships, while Dave Cashin will take on an increased role in his second season.

The women’s team took the OUA bronze medal, followed by a tenth place finish at nationals — a result they aimed for during a rebuilding year.

With team captain Steph Hulse entering her fourth year, expect an overall improvement on the women’s side. She’ll run alongside fellow fourth-years Alicia Kallos and Lauren Prufer.

The team will host the Queen’s Invitational on Sept. 15, the first meet of the season. The OUA championships take place on Oct. 27, while nationals are scheduled for Nov. 10.

— Peter Morrow

Rowing

The rowing program is still in what head coach John Armitage calls a ‘rebuilding’ stage. The first stage happened last year, when 35 of 47 rowers were in first or second-year standing.

For Ontario’s most successful university program over the last nine years, the women’s side finished second in Ontario after they won OUA gold in 2010. The men’s side earned bronze — the same they earned two seasons ago.

A pair of second-year rowers will lead the team in 2012. Matt Christie was Queen’s top-ranked rower as a rookie, while Erin Snelgrove excelled at last year’s OUA championships, winning the lightweight single race.

For 2012, much will depend on how the program’s newcomers will gel and develop chemistry. Armitage said individual fitness is not an issue.

With another strong wave of first-year rowers set to compete, Armitage still expects OUA team medals come late October. OUA gold is still the goal for the women’s side, and likely another bronze for the men.

— Peter Morrow

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