National recognition for fall Gaels

OUA champions, CIS finalists highlight remarkable 2012 campaign for Queen’s fall varsity teams

Men’s rugby beat the Western Mustangs at Nixon Field to win the OUA championship.
Men’s rugby beat the Western Mustangs at Nixon Field to win the OUA championship.
Women’s soccer came within a shootout loss of claiming their third straight CIS championship.
Women’s soccer came within a shootout loss of claiming their third straight CIS championship.
Women’s rugby fell 10-6 to Guelph in a tightly-contested OUA championship game.
Women’s rugby fell 10-6 to Guelph in a tightly-contested OUA championship game.
The football team lost a 22-point fourth-quarter lead against Guelph in the OUA semifinal.
The football team lost a 22-point fourth-quarter lead against Guelph in the OUA semifinal.

1. Men’s rugby

Everything came together for the men’s rugby team this year.

The veteran Gaels capped off a storybook season by reclaiming the OUA championship, topping the Western Mustangs 29-18 in the title game.

The result avenged a heartbreaking 22-19 loss to Western earlier in the year — the lone blemish in a season where Queen’s outclassed the rest of the OUA.

The team demonstrated unparalleled depth to compensate for the prolonged absence of star fly half Liam Underwood, who spent much of the OUA season competing at the national club level.

Third-year wing Graham Turner scored nine regular-season tries, the most in the OUA, while the Gaels led the league in both points for and against.

Underwood and captain Dan Moor excelled in the title game against Western. Both scored tries to seal Queen’s first championship since 2009.

Moor played on the Gaels’ fifth side during the 2009 title run. His stunning progression shows the importance of Queen’s club system under OUA Coach of the Year Peter Huigenbos.

2. Women’s soccer

The women’s soccer team teetered between elimination and domination for much of the season, ultimately falling just short of a third straight national title.

After winning three shootouts en route to the 2011 CIS championship, Queen’s fell in penalty kicks to the Trinity Western Spartans in this year’s national final.

The Gaels’ early-season struggles seemed to signify a changing of the OUA guard.

A five-game shutout streak to end the regular season righted the ship, before Queen’s secured the OUA’s third and final nationals berth by the skin of their teeth.

A CIS semifinal rematch with the Ottawa Gee-Gees saw the Gaels pot four goals — three more than Ottawa had conceded all year.

All-Canadian striker Jackie Tessier led the OUA’s most potent offense with 14 goals. Midfielder Riley Filion and defender Jessie De Boer joined Tessier as OUA First-Team All-Stars.

Strikers Breanna Burton and Brittany Almeida both notched 10 goals, while rookie goalkeeper Madison Tyrell shone in the CIS tournament. The onus will be on them to carry a retooled Gaels roster heading forward.

3. Women’s rugby

Queen’s came within four points of toppling a dynasty.

The Gaels nearly dealt the unbeaten Guelph Gryphons their first OUA loss since 2007 in this year’s final. After averaging over 64 points per game in the regular season, Guelph managed just 10 against Queen’s, barely capturing their fifth straight provincial title.

Although two defeats at the CIS championships denied Queen’s a spot on the national podium, the Gaels made terrific strides in 2012.

A 32-10 victory over McMaster on Sept. 22 secured first place in the Russell Division and assured the Gaels a clear path to the OUA final.

Third-year All-Stars Bronwyn Corrigan, Claragh Pegg and Taylor White anchored a powerful forward line, while centre Nadia Popov took home OUA East Rookie of the Year honours.

Nearly every impact player will return in 2013. An OUA championship and a top-three finish at nationals are well within striking distance.

4. Rowing

The Gaels women reclaimed the OUA championship in 2012, while the men snagged yet another bronze-medal finish.

Victories in the heavyweight eight, heavyweight double and lightweight four allowed the women to clinch their seventh provincial banner in 10 years. Queen’s overcame borderline freezing weather and the second-place Western Mustangs to secure the overall OUA points title.

Assistant coach Zola Mehlomakulu was named OUA Women’s Coach of the Year.

The Gaels men won OUA bronze for the fourth straight season, finishing well back of the host Brock Badgers. A gold medal in the lightweight eight marked the team’s first since 2008.

5. Men’s soccer

It’s a testament to the achievements of Queen’s fall teams that men’s soccer is slotted this low.

The Gaels rebounded from a disappointing first-round playoff defeat in 2011 with their most successful campaign in years.

A stunning 4-0 win over the Carleton Ravens on Sept. 16 set the tone for Queen’s 11-1-2 season, culminating with a first-place finish in the OUA East.

Queen’s 2-1 quarter-final victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues came in thrilling fashion. The Gaels advanced to the OUA Final Four after scoring a late overtime equalizer and surviving seven rounds of penalty kicks.

Consecutive defeats to McMaster and York denied the team a shot at nationals, but head coach Chris Gencarelli has laid the foundation for future success.

Goalkeeper Dylan Maxwell was a revelation in his first season as the starter, backstopping the OUA’s most stringent defensive corps. Until the Final Four, Queen’s didn’t allow more than one goal in any game.

Central defenders Joe Zupo and David Tom were both named OUA East First-Team All-Stars, while midfielder Chris Michael led a balanced offensive attack with five goals.

Fifth-year midfielders Nick Pateras, Adrian Rochford and Patrick Zanetti won’t be back next year, but the Gaels will be more experienced as a whole. The defensive troika of Maxwell, Zupo and Tom could lead a charge for the 2013 OUA title.

6. Football

The McMaster Marauders loomed as the Gaels’ most dangerous opponent this season — but no one anticipated Guelph.

The Gryphons pulled off the two largest comebacks of the OUA season against Queen’s. They stole the league’s second playoff bye on Oct. 13 and stunned the Gaels in the semifinals three weeks later.

Turnover troubles and offensive inconsistency hampered the Gaels for much of the season, most notably in their second-half meltdowns at Guelph. Failing to advance to the conference final was a catastrophic result, particularly for a team firmly embedded in the CIS Top 10 all year.

Aside from the Guelph games, Queen’s defence stood tall, while the offense demonstrated explosive capabilities.

Defensive linemen John Miniaci and Derek Wiggan, linebacker Sam Sabourin and defensive backs TJ Chase-Dunawa and Andrew Lue were all pegged as OUA First-Team All-Stars.

Third-year quarterback Billy McPhee enjoyed a breakout statistical season, while running back Ryan Granberg finished second in the CIS in rushing yards and touchdowns.

It’s impossible to pin Queen’s failures on any single player or unit. To win a potential Yates Cup matchup with McMaster, the Gaels would have needed a flawless team effort — one they couldn’t muster this season when it mattered most.

7. Cross Country

A standout rookie highlighted Queen’s cross country results this fall.

First-year Julie-Ann Staehli was named to the CIS Second All-Star Team after finishing 14th at the national championships. She led the Gaels women in every event the team entered this season, earning a season-best third-place finish at the Queen’s Invitational on Sept. 15.

Staehli’s individual exploits have her primed to lead the Gaels women heading forward, while fellow rookie Charlotte Dunlap also put forth promising results at the OUA and CIS meets.

Queen’s men secured a spot on the OUA podium through a collaborative effort.

Four Gaels runners placed in the top 20 at the provincial championships, leading the team to their second straight bronze medal. Third-years Jeff Archer and Tyson Loney were both named OUA Second-Team All-Stars.

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