Already earning the title of the University of Regina’s most successful team this season, the women’s basketball team took home the Canada West Championship last weekend after beating the defending champions, the Calgary Dinos, 53-37.
The road to the Canada West gold medal game was relatively smooth for the Cougars this year, who registered back-to-back wins against Victoria in the Canada West Quarterfinals and took out Fraser Valley 84-77 in the semi-finals before their showdown with the Dinos in the championship game, something that the highly touted team missed out on last season.
While sporting a 19-3 record throughout 2012-13, despite the impressive statistics, many Cougars fans were shocked at the amount of losses the team had this season – considering they went undefeated throughout 2011-12. However, with the undefeated record came a lot of pressure, which ultimately got the best of the Cougars last year, something that they have so far been able to avoid in 2013.
The Cougars will have one week off to prepare for the CIS Championships, which will be hosted at the University of Regina’s Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport from March 15-17.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09, the men’s hockey team could very well win the award for most improved campus squad this year.
The Cougars had a complete turnaround since last season, where they had a mere five wins in a 28 game season, led by a coach on the last leg of his contract. Compare that to the team’s performance this year, led under the direction of rookie head coach Todd Johnson, the team registered 13 conference wins, had multiple players set new career highs, and an appearance in the post season.
Despite their drastic improvements, the Cougars were eliminated in the Canada West quarterfinals after suffering back-to-back losses at the hands of the Manitoba Bison. Although the team will lose both skill and leadership with the graduation of Russ Nielsen, they will surely be playoff contenders again next season.
Similar to the men, the women’s hockey team also experienced a drastic turnaround this year, which was highlighted by a new school record, a second place finish and a playoff appearance.
With their 18 conference wins this season, not only did the Cougars better their previous season by 11 wins, they also set a new school record for most conference wins in a single season.
After earning a second-place finish in the Canada West regular season standings, the Cougars were awarded a first round playoff bye for their efforts and had a well-deserved break before taking on the UBC Thunderbirds at home in semi-final action. The Cougars took game one by a narrow 2-1 margin on Friday, only to lose a marathon 94 minute game the next night. The game went to triple overtime and will go down as the second longest game in Canada West history. The team was clearly exhausted in their third game of the series which was played just 12 hours later, and the Cougars had no gas left in the tank and dropped game three 7-1.
The Cougars will lose four core fifth-year players to graduation this season as Gina Campbell, Hilary Lerat, Paige Wheeler, and Rianne Wight have all played their final games in Cougars uniforms.
While neither the women’s or the men’s team were able to secure team titles this year, the Cougars roster did post individual champions.
The men were unable to capture the Canada West team title for the third year in a row, but did receive a bronze medal for their efforts. The women’s team also finished third in Canada West, an improvement on their fifth-place finish last season.
The meet was highlighted with first place performances by fifth-year Steve Schneider, who took home his fourth consecutive gold medal, fourth-year Lisa McKibben, who earned her second Canada West title and rookie Golden Musonza, who collected gold at his first Canada West championships.
McKibben was able to replicate her strong performance at the CIS championships last weekend to earn her first CIS gold, while Schneider – who had dedicated all of his matches to his father on his birthday – also finished at the top of the podium for the second time in his career.
Track and Field
The track and field team had home advantage at the Canada West championships on Feb. 22, and their familiarity with the course was obvious.
The women placed fifth and the men finished second in the team standings thanks to a double-gold medal performance from third-year jumper Lex Ewen and single gold medal performances from fourth-year Jeremy Eckert in high jump, third-year Matt Johnson in the 1500 metre and fifth-year Kelly Wiebe in the 3000m – obviously.
In addition to the countless Cougars who took home medals, three members were also recognized by Canada West for receiving major conference honors. Wiebe brought home the award for Outstanding Male Performance at the meet, second-year Ian McLellan was recognized for the Male Student-Athlete and Community Service award, and Ewen also earned the award for Male Field Athlete of the Year. Ewen then went on to pull a Kanye during his infamous acceptance speech, reiterating that “Beyonce had one of the best videos of all times” before walking off the stage.
The track and field team will be the only Cougars team in action this weekend as the team travels to Edmonton for the CIS championships.
Photo courtesy of Arthur Ward