By Jovan Popovic, Staff Writer
Another year is in the books for McMaster sports. While it was a little earlier than expected, it was a successful year nonetheless. Since so much happened, I suggest you strap in and tighten your seatbelts while I try to recap it all.
Unfortunately, both the volleyball and wrestling teams were unable to finish their seasons. Growing concerns about COVID-19 led to many cancellations for McMaster athletics, but most sports were still able to get a full season in.
The biggest winners from McMaster’s 2019-2020 sports teams include the football team, the women’s curling team, and the men’s cross country team, each finishing the year with great accomplishments and motivation for more.
The football team managed to bring home the Yates cup, meaning they were the best team in the province! The Marauders managed to bring down the perennially tough University of Western Mustangs, who were the favourites to take home a fourth straight Yates cup. However, our Marauders successfully quelled the Mustangs’ thirst for the four peat, bringing home the cup for the eighth time in school history.
Six players were named to the All-star teams, including superstar defensive back Noah Hallett, who became the first Marauder since 2016 to make the football first team All-Canadian. The team continued their journey to the Vanier cup, where they unfortunately ended their season with a semi-final loss to the University of Calgary Dinos, who went on to win the national championship. Following their excellent season, the Marauders ranked fourth in the nation, which is a significant jump from their ninth place rank last season.
The women’s curling team was the next success story from the year, winning their first provincial title since 1995. The Marauders were the highest ranked team entering the tournament and lived up to the hype, beating the University of Queen’s Gaels with a score of seven to five in the finals. McMaster’s team went on to the national championship, where they placed fourth overall. In a hard fought rematch of the Ontario University Athletics finals, the Marauders lost to the Queen’s Gaels in the national tournament. Not only had the Marauders beat Queen’s in the provincial final, but also earlier in that same national tournament. Grace Lloyd was named a first team All-Canadian after the playoff run.
As per usual, McMaster’s powerhouse cross country team showed up big, ranking as the second best team in the nation for the second straight year. The team managed to finish second overall in their annual U Sports tournament, only falling short to the Calgary Dinos, who successfully defended their title. Alex Drover and Max Turek were among McMaster’s top performers, finishing sixth and seventh, and both were named first team All-Canadians.
For the women’s track team, team captain Caroline Forbes and first-year student Morgan McKeown dominated on the track. They became the first female track athletes to represent McMaster at nationals in the 3000 meter race since 2014. In the contest, McKeown finished ninth overall while Forbes just missed the top ten, nabbing 11th place.
The men’s wrestling team was yet another team that drew success this season, despite their season being cut short. After three silver medals and a bronze at the U Sports championships, the team looked great going into nationals. The tournament was cancelled due to concerns of spreading COVID-19, which was a necessary call to make. Unfortunately, the team was never able to put their skills on display at the national level. With that being said, it was still a successful season overall.
Moving onto men’s volleyball, the program has been one of McMaster’s best for a long time and this season was no different. The team finished the season with a bronze medal in the OUA championship, sweeping the University of Guelph Gryphons in the final game of the OUA tournament. They had an outstanding regular season record of 16-2. Nathan Delguidice made the All-Canadian team, as well as the OUA first team, both of which were career firsts for him. Similar to men’s wrestling, the remainder of the season was cancelled. The team will have to wait another year to represent McMaster at the national level.
Now, onto winter sports. The figure skating team finished off a strong season in third place after their championship tournament. This high performance year was mainly supported by standout skater Belvina Mao, who was the lone gold medalist for the team.
In other winter sports news, Nordic skiing made its McMaster debut in 2019, marking this past year as the first for the school's newest sports team. The women’s team impressed with a fourth place finish with the help of Soren Meeuwisse’s strong performance, leading to her being named an OUA All-star! Placing fourth for the squad is an incredible feat for a brand new team.
Marauders basketball proved to be exciting once again, despite no podium finishes. Both the men’s and women's teams ended up losing in the quarterfinal, with the women’s team losing to the number one seeded Western Mustangs, and the men losing to the number one seeded Carlton Ravens, who won the championships to continue their dynasty. Second year guard Jordan Henry continued to show his value as a young developing talent, earning OUA second team All-star honours. From the women’s team, Sarah Gates earned an OUA second team All-star nod and Christina Buttenham took home the defensive player of the year award. Unfortunately, the women’s team was unable to repeat the success of last season where they won the national championship, but this year was nonetheless great in it’s own right. The finish was significant, as the team will continue to gain experience and develop, looking to regain their championship form for years to come.
The women’s rugby team is becoming quite familiar with the podium, as they earned their third straight bronze medal this season. They defeated the Brock Badgers 41-3 in the bronze medal game, earning them a 10th place ranking in the nation after being previously unranked. Katie McLeod and Taylor Price were both named OUA All-Stars after their strong performances this season.
McMaster soccer saw the same results as basketball this season, with both the men’s and women’s teams being eliminated in the quarterfinals. Anand Sergeant maintained his status as an OUA West first team All-star for a second consecutive season, while the team captain Yordan Stoyanov, Dusan Kovacevic and Matt Monteiro were all named to the second team. Regarding the women’s team, Steph Roberts made the division's first team All-star group for her second straight season. On top of this, Hannah Chau-Stacey and Carling Goold were named to the second team.
It’s important we acknowledge the tragic loss of the team’s former head coach Joe Valvasori, who was not only an outstanding coach, but an essential part of our community. The adversity the women’s team showed this year was nothing short of remarkable. It’s safe to say that Valvasori would have certiainly been proud.
The baseball season finished in the fall with the men losing in the semi-finals to the Laurier Golden Hawks, who went on to win the tournament. Despite being unable to place, the team had many significant accomplishments throughout the season, including outfielder Nik Motruk being named a co-recipient of the OUA’s Most Valuable Player award, as well as the sole winner of the top hitter award for the conference. Motruk also earned OUA first team All-star honours along with his teammate Michael Ong. Sliding over to women’s softball, the team managed to win the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Fastpitch Association bronze medal this year. Emily Campbell was one of the team’s studs throughout the year, having won female athlete of the week earlier this year.
Coach Quinn Fairley of the men’s water polo team won his second consecutive coach of the year award following his team's loss to Queen’s in the bronze medal round, earning them fourth place this season. This year’s award marks coach Fairley’s fifth in his career. Colin Colterjohn, the team’s star player, was named an All-star for the fifth time in his career as well.
To cap it all off, Talia Ng of the badminton team shined this season, achieving an absurd undefeated record of seven wins and zero losses at the OUA championship, aiding the team in securing their fifth place finish in the tournament. Ng, being in her first year, is among many young athletes on the badminton team, whose talent will only mature in future years. McMaster is set to be a future powerhouse team in this sport, and will undoubtedly be a great team to watch for years to come.
While the school year was cut short, it is important to focus on past successes, especially in troubling times like these. Hopefully the which are hopefully an indication of great things to come. All in all, it’s safe to say 2019-2020 was a successful year for McMaster sports across the board, which could be an indication of great years to come. We are certainly primed for a great year next year.