A look at the teams to watch in the second half of the season
Whether your last 365 days were filled with bountiful joys, the worst of sorrows, or a good helping of both, it’s time to flip open the cover on that cat calendar that the aunt you hate gave you for Christmas and come to grips with the fact that a new year is upon us. Fear not, sports fanatics, this year will not just be filed solely with awkward family gatherings, hangovers of various shades, and the impending sense of humanity’s imminent destruction, it will also harbour some wonderful CIS storylines. Now that we’ve reached the midpoint of most of the Cougars teams’ seasons, it’s time to keep watch on what storylines may, at their best, enthrall us over the next four months. These storylines are phrased as questions because university students just love questions. Also, good things come in threes.
Can the swimming team keep floating tough?
My apologies. It’s tough to make a swimming team sound menacing. I must say, having lived and hung out with swimmers, that they have the craziest work ethics of anyone I know. It’s tough to be a Cougar swimmer. They currently don’t train at the pool on campus (it doesn’t fit the specifications of a high-level swim team), at least three athletes have left the team in the last two seasons, and they compete in a hyper-competitive (largely) individual sport with a coach (Abderrahmane Tissira) who tutors both of the university teams along with a youth swimming program. Add in the fact that you have fifteen swimmers competing in a multitude of different distances and disciplines, and that’s quite the balancing act.
With all that said, the team is still putting up results. The squad set numerous records at November’s Canada West Championships in Vancouver – eight to be exact – and between Noah Choboter and Eva Madar, the team team added three medals to their proverbial trophy candidate. With five athletes meeting the CIS standard in their respective events, it will be interesting to see how the squad handles their CIS journey having just achieved a run of achievements rarely seen in University of Regina aquatics history.
What will the track team’s first indoor season under an interim coach look like?
Wade Huber’s reign as track & field and cross-country coach is, like the squad’s season, nearing the midway point. With the cross-country season firmly out of the way, the focus turns towards the indoor season.
The first meet of the year was held just a few short weeks ago, but the season ramps up quickly, with six meets happening before the Canada West and CIS championships occur in late February and early March, respectively. Previous CIS competitors Joy Becker, Elisabeth Fortier and Ahmed Alkabary are just three of those who will try to grace the podium over the next few months.
It’s not often that one sees a collegiate coach take a parental leave, as Bruce McCannel has this season, but the team hasn’t lost an inch or a step (depending on which event you’re talking about) since his temporary and perfectly understandable departure. With yet another strong team, the Cougars will look to repeat their previous successes on the track as the squad looks to be in excellent hands with Huber at the helm.
Will the volleyball teams sustain their momentum?
Note that I did not write, “Will the Cougars win another game?” I went to the nerve-wracking set of matches between the ‘Cougs and the University of Manitoba Bisons, and the only negative was having to sit in the same seat for six hours, even if I was at the edge of it. Two nail-biting matches made me a believer, even if the teams may not be at the top of the conference.
In previous years, when the U of R’s squads fell behind in a 2-0 hole, their heads would sag low, no one dove for the ball, and the team would bow out like the person who is nominated for an Oscar but has no chance of winning it. As poet and renowned volleyball fan T.S Elliot would say, “The squad would go out not with a bang, but with a whimper.” Alright, aright, I admit it, I made that part about him being an avid volleyball aficionado up, but the poem reference still stands the test of a number of jump spikes. No, you’re right, that metaphor didn’t work very well. Moving. Right. Along.
The atmosphere this time was different. When the women’s team fell into that deep dark abyss that comes with a 2-0 deficit, they dug their heels in and made the plays they needed to make. It was a mentality shift that the CKHS has not been privy to in quite a while. Maybe it was an energy infusion from the first year-heavy line up that involved Erika Burns, Dominika Janowczyk, Diana Lumbala, and Haley Wagar, along with fifth year outside hitter Tori Glynn, but the team roared their way back to win in a fashion not often seen that provides a lot of hope for the future.
On the men’s side, even though they couldn’t complete the comeback, watching the determination which which they played was inspiring. Seeing third-year middle blocker Brad Millers hobble around during the final set was something you see in a sports movie rather than in a CIS gymnasium. If all else fails, the volleyball team could make the first inspirational sports movie that has the winning of a less-than-vital middle of the season Canada West contest as its main goal. Bring on the royalties, folks. That idea is all mine.