For varsity squads, the time is now

West Campus, Nixon Field and Richardson Stadium could all play host to championship teams this fall

The Gaels’ toughest games will come against Western, Guelph and McMaster. Queen’s topped the Marauders 31-24 on Monday.
The Gaels’ toughest games will come against Western, Guelph and McMaster. Queen’s topped the Marauders 31-24 on Monday.
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Centre back Joe Zupo returns as captain for his fourth OUA season.
Centre back Joe Zupo returns as captain for his fourth OUA season.
The Gaels fell just short of a third straight Canadian championship in 2012, losing the CIS final to Trinity Western in penalties.
The Gaels fell just short of a third straight Canadian championship in 2012, losing the CIS final to Trinity Western in penalties.
Queen’s lost in the dying seconds of their 2012 regular season match-up against Western, but earned retribution in the OUA final.
Queen’s lost in the dying seconds of their 2012 regular season match-up against Western, but earned retribution in the OUA final.
Five Gaels were named to the OUA All-Star team in 2012.
Five Gaels were named to the OUA All-Star team in 2012.
Julie-Anne Staehli finished 14th as a rookie at last year’s national championships.
Julie-Anne Staehli finished 14th as a rookie at last year’s national championships.
Head rowing coach John Armitage has captured 20 OUA banners during his 37 seasons at Queen’s.
Head rowing coach John Armitage has captured 20 OUA banners during his 37 seasons at Queen’s.

Football

Queen’s enters the 2013 campaign as the team to beat in the OUA.

Ranked no. 2 in the CIS pre-season rankings, best in the OUA, the Gaels shellacked the York Lions 52-1 in the season opener. Star receiver Giovanni Aprile scored four touchdowns, including a 115-yard missed field goal return.

Aprile’s 6’3”, 213-lb. frame boasts undeniable power that, coupled with his speed, has allowed him to emerge as one of the nation’s marquee wide outs.

Equally impressive was fourth-year quarterback Billy McPhee’s 311 passing yards and two touchdowns. If the Gaels are to have any hope at capturing an elusive Yates Cup, McPhee will need to finally solidify himself as the elite signal caller in the OUA.

Joining them is feature running back Ryan Granberg — a key part of an offence that boasts 10 returning starters from 2012, with no key losses to speak of.

Four CIS All-Canadians lead the Gaels’ balanced defence, including lineman John Miniaci and defensive back TJ Chase-Dunawa.

Their front seven is built to stop the run and apply pressure to the quarterback, while their ball-hawking secondary will look to make opposing teams second-guess calling deep passing plays.

Placekicker and punter Dillon Wamsley will look to build on a breakout rookie season, where his 14 field goals ranked him fourth in Ontario.

With such a high level of parity in the OUA, the Gaels have a few opponents they can’t take lightly. Key matchups include a trip to London on Sept. 28 to face the Western Mustangs, as well as the final regular season game against the Guelph Gryphons.

The Oct. 19 tilt against the Gryphons will serve as a shot at redemption for the Gaels, who lost a 22-point fourth quarter lead in last season’s OUA semi-final at Guelph. It’s also the second of Queen’s two reinstated Homecoming games.

With no obvious weaknesses in their roster, the only hurdle standing between the Gaels and OUA supremacy is themselves. They’ll need to learn from their 2012 incarnation, which was plagued by an offence that stalled at inopportune moments, committed far too many turnovers and blew late-game leads.

McPhee has to minimize his occasional tendency to throw drive-crippling interceptions. The three-headed rushing attack of Granberg, third-year Jesse Andrews and rookie Jonah Pataki, meanwhile, must keep defences honest to allow for McPhee’s aerial bombardment.

If the 2013 Gaels can play to their abilities, this is a squad that can and should challenge for berths in both the Yates and Vanier Cups.

Josh Burton

Men's Soccer

Queen’s soccer is on the cusp of a fourth straight nationals berth — but this time, it’s not the women.

The Gaels men took a major step forward in 2012, clinching the OUA East regular season title and advancing to their first provincial semi-final since 2007.

After falling in the semis, head coach Chris Gencarelli said the team’s goal was to repeat as division champs — which would allow them to host this year’s OUA Final Four.

With the league’s preeminent defensive trio in the fold, that’s a distinct possibility. Fourth-year centre backs Joe Zupo and David Tom both suited up this summer with Kingston FC, facing off against seasoned pros in the Canadian Soccer League.

The defence is backed by fourth-year keeper Dylan Maxwell, the breakout star of the 2012 campaign. The Gaels allowed an OUA-low eight goals in 14 games last season; if anything, that total could be lower this year.

Outside midfielder Nathan Klemencic, now with Kingston FC full-time, is the Gaels’ most notable loss.

His speed and vision will be hard to replace, but leading scorers Chris Michael, Lucas Lobo and Eric Koskins have all returned to pace a veteran attack.

Wednesday’s season opener at West Campus showcased Queen’s greatest challenger in the OUA East: the Gaels fell to the Carleton Ravens 2-0. They’ll face off again in Ottawa on Oct. 9 — a match that could determine the regular season champ.

Nick Faris

Women's Soccer

After three consecutive national championship appearances, 2013 may be a letdown for women’s soccer.

A few key veterans departed after the team’s loss in the CIS championship game last year, leaving the Gaels with a much younger core for this season.

While the remaining players have some championship experience, the Gaels’ time at the top is likely coming to a close. They’ll still make a play for the OUA East crown, but a fourth straight CIS title game seems out of the question.

Up front, the team will be starting a new era without Jackie Tessier, who contributed 14 of the Gaels’ OUA-leading 55 goals last season.

Third-year Breanna Burton and second-year Brittany Almeida will replace the graduating striker. Both players tallied 10 goals last season, tying them for sixth in the OUA.

The midfield will have a slight hole with the departure of captain Chantal McFetridge, though returning OUA East All-Stars Riley Filion and Alexis McKinty will keep the team competitive.

After being named an OUA East All-Star last season, third-year defender Jessie De Boer will lead the Gaels’ back end, while second-year keeper Madison Tyrell looks to build on her stellar rookie campaign.

The Gaels won’t be able to keep up with teams like the Ottawa Gee-Gees this season, but they have enough potential to end up near the top of the OUA East standings.

Sean Sutherland

Men's Rugby

The reigning league champs bear some similarities to the last Gaels team to hold that honour.

In 2010, men’s rugby finished third in the OUA, slipping a notch after losing seven seniors from the 2009 title team.

The number of departees could reach double digits this season — but a return trip to the OUA final isn’t entirely out of the question.

Last year’s championship felt like a coronation for a team on the brink. After a string of heart-wrenching losses, the Gaels finally beat the detested Western Mustangs in the final at pristine Nixon Field.

Graham Turner, David Worsley and Adam McQueen all return to the Gaels’ backfield after finishing top 10 in OUA scoring. 2012 coach of the year Peter Huigenbos has significant depth to draw from, since men’s rugby carries at least five full reserve teams annually.

The key to it all is fly half Liam Underwood, a sudden fixture on the Canadian senior men’s national team.

Underwood played just two regular season games last season due to commitments with the Ontario Blues club program, but scored 14 of Queen’s 29 points in the championship game.

A late-season stretch will see the Gaels face Western, McMaster and Guelph consecutively. Those results will signify the potential for a second straight OUA banner.

Nick Faris

Women's Rugby

The Gaels are poised to be OUA champions this year — if they can get over the hurdle that is Guelph.

The Gryphons have won the OUA every year since 2008, but their annual dominance was challenged last season by the Gaels’ performance in the league title game — a 10-6 loss for Queen’s.

This year’s squad will have that memory fresh in their minds, as the Gaels return with most of last season’s core, including four OUA All-Stars.

Fourth-year forwards Taylor White and Bronwyn Corrigan will need to build on their 2012 seasons to help push the Gaels to the next level. White was named an All-Canadian last season, while Corrigan was second in the OUA with 55 points scored.

The team will also benefit from the return of fourth-year forwards Claragh Pegg and Kayla Roote and third-year back Lauren McEwen.

Nadia Popov won’t return after being named OUA East Rookie of the Year in 2012. She’s training with a Canadian national program in Victoria, B.C.

The Gaels’ biggest test of the regular season comes in their season opener, when they take on the McMaster Marauders. The winner of that game will more than likely be the Russell (East) division champion.

If Queen’s wins their division and meets Guelph in the final, they have a chance to end the Gryphons’ five-year title run.

Sean Sutherland

Cross Country

After two consecutive years of falling just shy, the men’s cross-country team has the chance to finally make it to the podium at nationals.

Last season, the team followed up a bronze medal performance at the OUA championships with a fifth-place finish at the CIS championships.

The Gaels are led by fourth-year runner Jeff Archer, who posted a top-10 time at the OUA championships.

Joining him as the top-tier runners are fellow fourth-year Tyson Loney and third-years David Cashin and Nick McGraw, all of whom placed in the top 30 provincially last year.

The women’s side will need to see overall improvement if they want to reach the level of the men’s team, having finished sixth in the OUA and 11th at nationals in 2012.

The team is led by second-year Julie-Anne Staehli. An All-Canadian last year, she finished sixth at the OUA finals before coming in 14th at the CIS championships.

Running alongside Staehli will be third-years Erin Slade and Marie Soehl, as well as fourth-year Meghan Tait.

Both teams will look to dethrone the Guelph Gryphons at the OUA championships on Oct. 26. Guelph has won the last seven Canadian men’s titles and eight women’s championships.

Sean Sutherland

Rowing

The Gaels are banking on international success breeding similar results at home.

Third-years Matt Christie and Jacob Koudys will lead a youthful Queen’s men’s side in 2013, following a third-place overall finish at last October’s OUA championships.

After competing at the U23 World Championships in July, Christie and Koudys will reclaim crucial positions with the Gaels.

Both are part of the lightweight eight crew that won OUA gold and the lightweight four boat that placed first at nationals in 2012.

Coming off an OUA crown, a considerably deep women’s team is poised to contend again. Their lightweight four was the gold standard in 2012, winning every race they entered, while the heavyweight double and eight also notched provincial wins.

Fourth-year Meghan Robinson placed fifth with the Canadian women’s eight at the U23 championships. A trio of Gaels second-years — Danielle Abusow, Larkin Davenport Huyer and Shelby Stinnissen — took home silver medals at last month’s Canada Summer Games.

2008 was the last year Queen’s men and women claimed OUA banners simultaneously. Since then, the Gaels women have alternated championships with Western, while the Mustangs and Brock Badgers have swapped men’s titles.

Nick Faris

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