By Jim Hynes
McGill’s varsity sports teams are lacing them up in preparation for another exciting year. The McGill Reporter is increasing its sports coverage this year, and we’ll follow the teams and bring you player profiles. First up is a season preview of some of the major teams. Stand by for stories on other McGill teams – including rugby, lacrosse, rowing, volleyball, baseball, cross-country and track squads – throughout the year.
The 2007-2008 edition of the hockey Martlets went undefeated (25-0 league and playoff record) on their way to a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship – a first for any McGill women’s sports team. Coach Peter Smith’s squad is aiming high once again, setting its sights on another national title. Team Captain Shauna Denis and Assistant Captain Gillian Merrifield have moved on, but much of the championship team is returning, including All-Canadian and league MVP Vanessa Davidson, All-Canadians Catherine Ward and Charline Labonté, and CIS Rookie of the Year Ann Sophie Bettez. Both Bettez and Ward were recently named to Canada’s U-22 (under-22) team. New recruits include Marie-Andrée Leclerc-Auger, the Ligue de hockey féminin collègial AA du Québec MVP at Collège St-Jérôme last year.
The Martlets’ season gets under way Sept. 22, when the York University Lions visit the McConnell Arena. Schedule highlights also include a road trip to play Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard Oct. 24-26 and a visit by Syracuse University Feb. 24.
The 2007-2008 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champions – the team’s first league title since 1946 – the Redmen have their work cut out for them in 2008-2009. Eight seniors from last year’s team have graduated, including captain David Urquhart, the goaltending duo of Mathieu Poitras (three-time team MVP) and Jean-Michel Filiatrault, and leading scorer Shawn Shewchuk. Key returnees include forwards Simon Courcelles (last season’s OUA Rookie of the Year), Eric L’Italien, and Sam Bloom. Most notable among the new recruits is former Saint John Sea Dogs (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) forward and Montreal native Alexandre Picard. In 2006-07, Picard won the QMJHL’s Marcel-Robert Trophy as scholastic player of the year.
The puck drops on the Redmen’s season Sept. 20 (against St. Thomas University) with the first in a series of non-conference games which include a visit to the University of Vermont Oct. 5. Conference action begins when the Concordia Stingers visit McConnell Arena Oct. 10.
Coach Craig Norman’s Redmen team enters its 107th season facing some of the same challenges as their hockey counterparts. The team, which finished fourth in the five-team Quebec university league with an 8-8 record (15-16 overall), is losing no fewer than seven players from its 2007-2008 roster, including captain Daniel Martin. However, All-Stars Moustafa El Zanaty and Sean Anthony, the team MVP last year, lead the list of key returning players. New recruits include Greg Gause, a 6’6” forward from Williston, Vt., and 6’7” Paris, France, native Nicolas Moise, who played high school basketball in Atlanta, Ga., last season.
An exciting exhibition season gets under way this Saturday, Aug. 30, when the Redmen face the defending NCAA champion University of Kansas Jayhawks in Ottawa. The University of Virginia Cavaliers and Northeastern University Huskies visit the Currie Gym Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 respectively. The McGill Redbird Classic tournament (Oct. 17-19) is the scheduled attraction during homecoming week, followed by the Jack Donahue Tip-Off Tourney in Ottawa (Oct. 24-26), and a series of non-conference games in Atlantic Canada take place before league play begins at home against Bishop’s Nov. 14.
The basketball Martlets hope to rebound from a disappointing season that saw them finish last, posting a 2-14 league record (9-19 overall). Forwards Andrea Sergautis and Kelsey Binns are gone, while league All-Star and team MVP Nathifa Weekes and Catherine Parent head the list of returnees to coach Ryan Thorne’s squad. New recruits include Anneth Him-Lazerenko, a 6’0” forward from Laval, and Elise Lepine, a 5’11” forward from Mission, B.C.
The Martlets hit the court with a series of exhibition games beginning Sept. 12 at home to Collège Ste-Foy, as well as the McGill Redbird Classic during homecoming (Oct. 17-19). League play begins Nov. 14 with a visit from Bishop’s.
The soccer Redmen were only 5-5-2 last season, finishing fourth in the CIS’s seven-team Quebec Conference, but got hot in the playoffs, eliminating the league champion Montréal Carabins in the semis before dropping a 1-0 decision to Laval in the conference final. Despite the loss of All-Star Alejandro Julien, off to play pro soccer in France, Coach Philippe Eullaffroy’s team is looking for a Top 3 conference finish and a return to the national championship. Key returning players include All-Star forwards James Scholefield and Shawn Amarasekera, and All-Conference midfielder Thomas Lucas, league Rookie of the Year in 2007. New players include Yohann Capolungo of Vallan, France, and Cory Marcon of Columbia, Md.
The Redmen, already battling the injury bug in training camp, posted an exhibition record of 2-1-1. They play at the Old Four tournament in Toronto Aug. 30-31 before beginning conference play at the University of Montreal Sept. 12
The soccer Martlets, third-place finishers with a stellar 8-1-5 conference record in 2007, will field a young but very talented team in 2008. The starting 11 lineup is expected to include as many as five new recruits, most with national and/or international experience. Emanuela Narcisi and Cassandra Evans have moved on, but league All-Stars Anne-Catherine Huot, Carolyne Pelletier, Vanessa Salasky, Elizabeth Williams and Magalie Kolker and All-Canadian defender Karlie Kennedy-Cross all return to the team.
The Martlets opened their exhibition schedule with a win and a draw. After the Old Four tournament, they travel to Middlebury College in Vermont (Sept. 3) before their first conference game at the Université de Montréal Sept. 12.
The football Redmen, who opened their 128th season with a 32-13 non-conference loss to Queen’s Monday night, look to improve on the dismal 0-8 record they posted last fall, their worst season since 1966. To do so, second-year coach Sonny Wolfe’s squad will need to overcome the loss of 11 starters, five of them on offence, including three-time All-Canadian offensive lineman Ben Walsh. The six starters lost on defence include linebacker Jean-Nicolas Carrière (drafted by the Toronto Argonauts). Key returnees include All-Star quarterback Matt Connell, All-Canadian receivers Charles-Antoine Sinotte and Erik Galas, and defensive back Anthony Lukca, who led the nation in tackles in last year. A long list of new recruits (21) is headed up by Kicker Austin Anderson of Calgary. Anderson, whose father Gary booted field goals with five NFL teams over 24 seasons, kicked a 45-yarder for the Redmen in his first taste of college football action against Queen’s on Monday. It was the longest field goal kicked by a McGill player in 15 years.
Conference play begins with a game in Sherbrooke Sept. 8, while the 31st annual Shaughnessy Cup game against Concordia takes place on Friday, Sept. 12. A new event, Fill the Stadium Night, is scheduled for Sept. 19 when Bishop’s visits Molson Stadium.
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