Events like the VLC's games night help to strengthen the tight-knit student athlete community

Pick any sport at McMaster University, head out to the game and you’re very likely to end up sitting next to some Marauder athletes from a different sport. This is one of many great reasons why so many athletes enjoy their time at McMaster – the community feel.  

Given that Canadian university sports don’t have a following anywhere near what might be found with their American counterparts, their teams have had a long tradition of coming out and supporting one another. They fill the stands and cheer on their peers, just as their peers had done for them in their regular season.  

As a direct result, athletes from all different sports develop relationships amongst one another, creating the community feel that one can normally find from the athletics department today. To continue fostering these relationships, the Varsity Leadership Committee has taken initiative on several occasions to bring athletes closer together, the most recent effort being their games night.  

On Nov. 1 the VLC hosted a night between all varsity clubs, Ontario University Athletic teams and U Sports teams, where members could come out, meet one another and have a fun time. Several teams made an appearance including men’s and women’s volleyball teams, the baseball team, the field hockey team, the women’s rugby team, the men’s and women’s basketball team, the rowing team, the tennis team, the men’s and women’s soccer team, the wrestling team, the cross-country team and the figure skating team. 

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They ended up bonding over games such as twister, anomia, uno and an interesting post it note pair game, where each athlete received a sticky note, not knowing what was written on it. They had to ask questions about their sticky note until they figured out the word, then they had to fine the lone person with the shared word on their sticky note.  

The games went a long way towards the end goal of continuing to improve the connection between athletes at the school. 

“[There were] a lot of people. Every single team had probably between one to five people show up. . . As varsity athletes, we all share a similar space around the school. By forming these connections, I think it really strengthens this community and provides that support,” said Steven Japundzic, a member of the basketball team who attended the games night.  

As varsity athletes, we all share a similar space around the school. By forming these connections, I think it really strengthens this community and provides that support.

Steven Japundzic, event attendee

Although the athlete community is naturally forming given the similar and relatable lifestyle between athletes at the school, events like these are critical in maintaining that culture. They keep the athlete connection strong.  

“We’re already a pretty tight knit community, but I think it’s events like this that upkeep that kind of thing, and really reinforce that. Opportunities like this, people can come together and strengthen those bonds that are already there, but also make some new ones. It’s events like this that lead to the community we have at McMaster,” explained Japundzic.   

It’s events like this that lead to the community we have at McMaster.

STEVEN JAPUNDZIC, EVENT ATTENDEE

It’s because of organizations like the VLC that the culture within McMaster athletics continues to grow year after year. As athletes continue to support each other on, and off the field, the connection to one another is strong as ever. Maybe someday soon this support for the teams will start to replicate outside of the athlete population as well.  

C/O DoubleBlue (Wikimedia)

Chase Arseneau and Nate Edwards along with four other Marauders have accepted their invitations to the 2022 CFL combine

The 2021 football season is over but preparing for the next one is underway. For six Marauder graduates, this next season could be completely different from anything they have ever experienced.  

These six Marauders are Nate Edwards, Chase Arseneau, Justice Allin, Mario Alyas, Max Guy and Enoch Penney–Laryea. They have all accepted their invitations to the Canadian Football League combine this upcoming spring.  

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The CFL is the highest level of professional football competition in Canada. The combine is the athletes’ first step to being drafted by a CFL team.  

All the invited athletes from Canadian universities are given the opportunity to show off their skills and impress as many of the nine CFL teams as possible before the draft. Some events include measuring height and weight, bench press and vertical jump. As for Edwards, his goal is to make a good impression in the 40-yard dash.  

Edwards is a defensive linebacker on the football team, one of four Marauders selected for the 2021 East-West Bowl roster which identifies standouts for the 2022 CFL draft and in the CFL’s Top-20 prospects eligible for the 2022 CFL draft.  

“[I’m] just trying to put everything I can right now into showing myself the best I can into the combine and seeing where it kind of goes for there . . . Everyone in the CFL is a really great athlete and the general speed is quite a bit faster than in the USPORTS league and in order to show coaches that I can play at that level, I really want to showcase that speed,” explained Edwards.  

Arseneau is a wide receiver, tight end and full back for the Marauders. Like Edwards, he is one of the four Marauders selected for the 2021 East-West Bowl roster

Although they grew up and came to McMaster in different ways, Edwards and Arseneau both attribute a lot of their success to the McMaster Marauders. Edwards grew up playing youth football with the Hamilton Junior Tiger-Cats whereas Arseneau was recruited from the United States. However, both are excited to be at this stage of their football careers and have their coaches and team to thank for that.  

“I would say the person who has the greatest impact on me today would be Scott Brady, our defensive coordinator. He’s a very, very hands-on defensive coordinator when it comes to not only calling plays, [but] preparing us week-to-week on what our individual roles are going to be to help the team win . . . I think the way he makes you treat every day and kind of try to get better one day at a time was the biggest mentality shift for me that allowed me to kind of start to really grow and develop as a player and believe in myself,”

Nate Edwards

For Arseneau, not only did the coaches make a huge impact on his career, but alumnus tight end Blake Reason did as well. He was able to maintain a strong influence through his veteran experiences and advice that strongly helped Arseneau become the player he is today. 

“I would say just having good mentors and role models in my life that kind of showed me how to properly prepare and be my best self. [Reason] was a great veteran; I had someone that really showed me how to work and prepare and do the right thing and make sure that I was competent in terms of knowing the playbook and knowing my plays and he showed by example every day what it's like to work hard and be a leader on the team and execute to the best of their abilities,” said Arseneau.  

Another similarity between the offensive and defensive players was their favourite Marauders memory and greatest athletic achievement — winning the Yates Cup in 2019.  

“You're grinding with your teammates, tensions get high, but we all want the same thing. We all strive for that goal and to have it actually come to fruition and be able to lift the Yates Cup — that was [the] greatest,” said Arseneau. 

While this may be the end of the university chapter for these two Marauders, their experience, hard work and dedication to the sport of football will certainly help pave the way through these new experiences. The upcoming draft is a daunting prospect, but by continuing their training, supporting each other and their fellow Marauders and taking it one 40-yard dash at a time, great things can be expected from all six players. 

Although not many know about the varsity sport, the relationship between McMaster sports and the varsity golf team are on bad terms. 

It's been two months since most varsity sports have begun, with the largest emphasis thus far on the football and the soccer teams and their success this season. However, there are many other sports that are a part of the McMaster community which do not get as much attention as others. One of these sports is golf

Currently, if you were to search up the roster for the men’s and women’s golf teams on the Marauders website, you would end up with an “Error 404” message. This essentially means that the editors of the website and the sports committee have not been updating the community on every team within the university. That is not the only outdated team page on the website. If one was to search up the rowing or the fastpitch teams, they would be greeted with the 2019 rosters, even though the current 2021 seasons are well underway. 

Recently, the men’s golf team took part in the Ontario University Athletics regional qualifiers in Pickering where they finished in fourth place, meaning that they qualified to the national tournament in the spring. 

Although the men's golf team reached remarkable success, they have not received much attention throughout the season. With only one article written about them on the Marauders website this season, their last spotlight on McMasters Sports page was in 2017

Kavith Ranchagoda, a second-year computer engineering and management student, spoke about the mistreatment and the lack of effort McMaster puts into his varsity team. 

“We did really well at the start of the season. We [tied for third] in the provincials and now we’re going to compete in the nationals . . . They barely cover us in the media and when they do, it's like a line or two,” said Kavith.

Kavith is considered as one of the best players that McMaster has to offer in golf. Competing at numerous regional and national tournaments in Canada, he excelled at every single one and was considering moving to the United States for further golf success when COVID-19 hit. 

“Last year just before COVID-19 hit, I was meant to move to the U.S. for golf scholarships, but then the pandemic started. I chose McMaster instead not only because of my program, but because I [expected] good support from the athletics department as a golfer,” explained Ranchagoda.

During the Pickering regionals, Ranchagoda managed to tie ninth place in the whole competition, proving that he is an incredible asset to the varsity team. He believes that he will do even better at the national tournament in the spring.

“The provincial qualifier was a really good showing from me and I am proud of it. However, I do think that I will do even better in a couple of months when we start playing again,” said Ranchagoda. 

However, Ranchagoda also explained the disadvantages associated with being a part of the golf team. He expressed his concern with the financing, the maltreatment and the obsolete feeling that the golf team has. 

“Although we are really happy with our performances, it’s not perfect. Our coach is the one that buys extra gear and he facilitates us for every tournament that we play. McMaster does not provide us with extra gear,” said Ranchagoda. 

Perhaps the worst part of the whole treatment of the golf team is the “yearly fee” that the varsity players have to pay to take part.

“We have to pay $1,000 to the university to take part in the varsity team. It is disappointing because many other teams don't have to, but we must. It’s also strange because we have to pay to represent a university. Also, the university does not provide the option for transport through their negotiated contract but it is cost prohibitive for us to utilize it since it does not fit our requirements for smaller group transport needs,”  

Kavith ranchagoda

Ranchagoda’s statements certainly reveal a lot about how the McMaster varsity department is treating its sports teams with inequality. Without a doubt, this is a call for change within varsity teams in the university.

C/O Yoohyun Park

The Marauders field hockey team describes new challenges and hopes for their first season

McMaster’s field hockey team has made their debut as varsity players in the Ontario University Athletics. Due to COVID-19 restrictions this year, the OUA has divided the eight Ontario field hockey teams into two divisions, East and West, with each team playing eight regular season games. The Marauders are in the West division and play against the Guelph Gryphons, Waterloo Warriors and Western Mustangs. 

Due to these changes, the Marauder field hockey team has many challenges for this season as they fight to make a name for themselves within the OUA. Rebecca Jiang is one of the captains of the field hockey team. 

“I'm just looking forward to having a good season and being able to prove ourselves in the OUAs, I feel like we've been underestimated a lot in previous years. So, I just want to be able to come on strong and prove that we can play and compete,” said Jiang.

As a result of school taking place virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, many sports teams, field hockey included, were unable to practice. Jessica Lim, Jiang’s co-captain, also speaks on this issue. 

“It's been different and I think that's been true for all of the sports teams. It's a huge transition, going from having light practicing, if any practice at all, and just doing conditioning, to having games practically every week . . . The games are twice every single weekend now, which is a huge jump than during the pandemic, [when] we didn't have anything,” Lim explained.

This year, the field hockey season only lasts for one month, making the level of intensity a lot higher, which can easily take a toll on the players. Playing a high performance sport at the provincial level is not easy and it requires a tremendous amount of individual and group effort. Since the team was previously not able to practice in-person, the team dynamic has changed with many members having graduated over the past two years and new first- and second-year teammates joining. 

Briana Da Silva, a member of the field hockey team, described the comparison. 

“Last year, we did a lot on Zoom, but obviously that’s nothing compared to in-person. We would do team workouts and team challenges, we’d group up that way to do a little team bonding, but I really don’t think Zoom has anything on being in-person when it comes to team building,” said Da Silva. 

In addition, being a good teammate helps maintain a positive team spirit. 

“Everyone has their bad days and everyone has off days on the field and off days just in their personal life. And the great thing about a team sport is that there's always 20 other girls who are with you . . . That's really the thing to remember, that if someone's down you don't have to be down with them, you can just take your energy and help bring them up,” explained Lim.

Da Silva too prides herself in her team spirit and contributing to the team’s positive disposition. 

“I pride in team dynamic, so I really am always trying to keep the morale up. But also I know those girls have my back like a family and I know if you show up in a positive mood, it’s just [going to] reflect on the whole entire team,” 

-Briana Da Silva

The team is more than halfway through the season, with their next home game on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. If interested, be sure to watch them play on Alumni Field against the Western Mustangs. 

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C/O Travis Nguyen

With about two weeks into the new soccer season, Dusan Kovacevic has already made a name for himself. 

It is not uncommon for athletes to progress well throughout a season. Certain players impress both on individual and group levels, but the story of Dusan Kovacevic, a member of the men's varsity soccer team, has impressed at an unprecedented level.

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The first game that the Marauders men's soccer team played competitively was against the Algoma Thunderbirds. Expectations were high for the boys, considering the successful history with the Thunderbirds from previous years, so they had to put their complacency aside to ensure a win. 

Sure enough, the Marauders swept the Thunderbirds seven to zero at the Ron Joyce stadium on a rainy Saturday. Although the team represented McMaster University welland went above and beyond, Kovacevic was the man on the pitch that stood out. Scoring a whopping four goals throughout the 90 minutes, he was the man of the match. Not only did he score four goals, but Kovacevic managed to get off ten shots, which was by far the largest tally in the game. 

Shortly after the first game, the Marauders played the Thunderbirds once again. The Marauders won seven to two, marking another significant and impressive win for McMaster. Once again, the man of the match was Kovacevic, scoring three goals and bagging one assist. There's no doubt that the sharp shooter loves a goal against the Thunderbirds. 

Shortly after the weekend during which these impressive wins occurred, Kovacevic earned himself an Ontario University Athletics team of the week award. Speaking to Kovacevic about his award and his general reaction, he expressed his satisfaction and cited that it was an honour.

“To be honest with you, I only found out because I got tagged in an Instagram photo. At that moment, it was very surreal and it felt amazing . . . To win this award was truly an honour,” said Kovacevic. 

When asked about the effect of COVID-19 on his progress, Kovacevic discussed how often he unfortunately had to delay training due to regulations.

“I did have my regular soccer training up until March 2020, but it all went to a standstill from there on. I did have some pick up games here and there with my friends, but it was no match for the actual training we had before the pandemic. I had hopes last year that by the summer of 2020 this will be done and that we will resume the season, but that did not work out either, so I am very happy to finally be back,” explained Kovacevic. 

Many new faces have joined the Marauders varsity soccer team, meaning the team’s faring was unpredictable. However, the first five games have gone off to a good start for them; the team has a total of three wins, one draw and only one loss. Out of the 22 goals that McMaster has scored so far this season, Kovaceic accounts for ten of them, making him the top scorer of the central division. Additionally, the Marauders are currently leading the central division with ten points. 

Although Kovacevic is very fond of the team’s current success within the league, he said that they have just begun.

“Everything against Algoma and the first game with Laurentian seemed to go our way, but we have just begun. The game against [University of Toronto] was very entertaining and they’re very good opponents. We’ve also got Nipissing and Ryerson to play soon, so it will not be an easy couple of weeks but I am confident that we will do well,” explained Kovacevic

When asked about the team chemistry and his confidence in the squad, Kovacevic was very excited to talk about how much he believes in them.

“I personally think that the squad we currently have is one of the best ones that I’ve been a part of. Although we have many [first- and second-years] coming in due to the COVID gap, they are very talented and fit in with the team well. All of the older ones, including myself, also get along really well and that is why I think that we are going to have a very successful season,” said Kovacevic. 

The Marauders’ season is not over yet — far from it. After the regular season, if the Marauders place high enough in their conference table, they’ll play in the play-offs and eventually fight for the OUA title. 

You can follow the men’s soccer team games and all statistics here

McMaster sports are back, but does the student body care?

Varsity sports have been around for a long time. At McMaster University, sports have been around since 1889, when the university used to be located in Toronto. Mac’s first varsity game was played between a group of alumni from the Toronto Baptist College and Woodstock college, competing in a match of soccer. Over time, the university developed its variety of sports offered and by 1897, McMaster made all athletics and other sport related activities a duty of the central executive committee

McMaster University athletes’ names — Marauders — came from a former student, Bill Cline, who suggested the nickname for the men's basketball team and had his suggestion published by the Silhouette afterward. 

Where do the Marauders stand now, after a whole year of inactivity? How popular are they with the general student population within McMaster? This is a question that can be posed as the new season slowly starts and fans return to the stands. Already, the tickets for the homecoming weekend football game against the Waterloo Warriors are sold out, but this does not necessarily represent the attitudes towards the Marauders and all sports teams of the student body. 

In the days leading up to this publication, a survey was taken around campus and on Reddit to determine what the general student population think of the Marauders and whether they keep up with the games in general. 

The following results were collected on campus, based on 50 answers from students selected at random. 

Do you keep up with any varsity sports?

When asked about this question, it was evident that most of the students seemed uninterested. After 50 people were interviewed regarding this matter, 84% expressed their disinterest, while 16% mentioned that they do occasionally or commonly keep up with the varsity teams at McMaster. 

Evidently, the popularity of varsity sports within the student population is not of great magnitude and the campus poll was not the only one to prove this consensus. 

McMaster Reddit Poll

Although Reddit does not represent the student population as a whole, the McMaster Sub-Reddit is an internet page that has over 25,000 students, alumni and professors. Recently, a poll was conducted to get an even clearer picture of how popular McMaster varsity sports are among the students. 

An identical question was posed to the Sub-Reddit: Do you keep up with McMaster varsity sports?

Although the campus poll did not show a significant popularity in terms of varsity sports, the Reddit poll showed a greater level of disinterest in varsity sports than the previous poll. Out of 277 votes recorded, only five stated that they follow the competitive leagues while a whopping 245 said no. 

These polls clearly show that there is not a large interest in varsity sports among Mac students. After a long break without any university sports, it may have been expected. However, these are also a prompt for change. They signify a lack of students' knowledge about the sporting events going on around them and it would be beneficial for the Marauders to instead believe that Mac students are interested in varsity games and cheering them on.

When speaking to Catherine Zheng, a second-year computer engineering student regarding sports, she mentioned that her love for sports and willingness to follow the varsity scene is largely affected by her school workload and sometimes lack of information. 

“I feel like there are many people out there that would really like to keep up or even spectate varsity sports, but the amount of university workload generally prevents people like me from having the time to do so,” said Zheng. 

When asked about the effect COVID-19 had on her interest in varsity sports, Zheng mentioned that it didn't particularly diminish its appeal to her, but felt like many of her friends completely forgot about the sporting events associated at McMaster. 

“I think that COVID-19 didn't really have an effect on my interest in varsity sports. I have always been a fan of school teams, especially football. Obviously, last year there were no activities to follow but even now I feel like a year of inactivity made many people forget that such things are back to normal now,” explained Zheng. 

She also described how there is sometimes a lack of information about McMaster sports. 

“I do feel like that at times there is not much to know about varsity sports. For example, the McMaster Instagram page barely posts anything regarding these activities, which I think doesn't inform students enough,” said Zheng. 

It is evident that the Marauders are not of major interest among the student population. Although information about varsity games may not be readily available on social media, students have the opportunity to keep up with all the varsity sports through the Marauders website.

Photo by Kyle West / Sports Reporter

For those in the know, McMaster Volleyball has long been a force to be reckoned with. Over the years the program has sent players overseas to play in professional leagues such as the Polish PlusLiga, seen its graduates make Olympic appearances and taken down National Collegiate Athletic Association Division one teams. To those who didn’t already know all this, the Can Am Volleyball Holiday Showcase helped shed some light on McMaster’s success.

The Can Am Volleyball Holiday Showcase, which took place Dec. 28 to 31 2019, was a set of three matches that pit three of the top Canadian university volleyball programs against strong American foes.

Other than McMaster, two other Canadian universities at the Can Am tournament were the Trinity Western University Spartans and the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The three Canadian teams made their way to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre to face off with the Long Beach State 49ers, the Lewis University Flyers and the University of California, Los Angeles Bruins.

McMaster is no stranger to the strength of Long Beach State’s volleyball program, having played them over four times in the past two years. McMaster has come out on top in two of the last three matchups. Unfortunately, they fell just short in this year’s match with a final score of three to two.

What it looks like when @MACMVB wins a thrilling 5 set victory over perennial national volleyball powerhouse @TrinityWestern Spartans! Congratulations to Coach @DavePreston1 and this gutsy Mac team! @mcmastersports #hamont pic.twitter.com/9mFweD4h44

— Terry Cooke (@TerryCookeHCF) January 4, 2020

Following the Can Am Showcase, McMaster moved forward with their second act of holiday break tournaments with a two day showdown against the west coast’s Canadian volleyball powerhouse, Trinity Western University, upsetting them in the first match with a thrilling kill to bring home the W in the fifth set. The Marauders also took home another win on the fourth, securing two straight wins against the Spartans. This success provided McMaster with the confidence to enter the continuation of the season with a brand new perspective.

Looking forward to the new year ahead, McMaster holds the top seed in the western conference of the Ontario University Athletics. They are preparing to face several opponents throughout the OUA.

First off will be Ryerson University on Jan. 17 and Trent university on Jan. 18. Ryerson, who is second seeded in the OUA’s eastern conference, will surely be a tough fight for the Marauders. However, if Mac continues to utilize the fast attack and strong offensive structure seen over the past few matches, we may see the Marauders to swoop in on the Rams.

The Trent University Excalibur coming to town will likely be a relief for the Marauders as the Excalibur is currently in last place, without any wins. Following this game, Mac will face more difficult interconference opponents such as the Brock University Badgers and the Guelph University Gryphons over the rest of the month.

McMaster is currently tied for first in all of the OUA with their Toronto-based rival, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Looking to take the season away and start 2020 in the same fashion as the 2019 season, the men’s volleyball team could have the opportunity to end their season as number one.

We are looking to see another winning season, which will hopefully lead to another run for the national championship. McMaster volleyball’s winning tradition is in the midst to continue for another year in 2020.

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Coby Zucker

Coming into the Ontario University Athletics playoffs as the fourth-ranked team in Canada puts a target on your back. Add to that a record-breaking six-year stretch where McMaster has taken home the Forsyth Cup for first place in the OUA playoffs, and you now know which team is the one to beat.

And yet, pressure is nothing new for head coach Dave Preston who has been leading the team since 2002.

“The way our program and the way I deal with [pressure] is that I don't think that there's anybody outside of our team room that expects more out of our program than us,” said coach Preston. “So I think when teams start to feel pressure, it's because the external expectations become greater than what the internal expectations can handle. There isn't anybody who expects more out of us than us. So pressure is not an issue.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuhnYDDhlGH/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Playing on such a decorated team, it is safe to assume the Marauders have lofty expectations for themselves with none loftier than those of fifth-year hitter Andrew Richards, who will be playing in his fifth and final OUA playoffs this season. Richards welcomes the competition and the opportunity to leave it all on the floor.

“I definitely know teams want to beat us with our history of having the success that we've had in Ontario,” said Richards. “I'm sure it would be a sweet feeling for someone to try and knock us off but that motivates us even more to know that any time we play a team they're going to bring the best they have and they're going to be motivated to take us down. So it's something that we welcome almost. We want other teams to play their best, which in turn will make us play our best.”

One game into their playoff run, the Marauders’ opponents’ bests have not been good enough. The York University Lions certainly looked motivated this past Saturday coming into Burridge Gym taking the first set 25-27, but their momentum was quickly stifled.

The Marauders proceeded to take the next three sets (25-23, 25-15, 25-19) in a mirror of their last meeting with the Lions in the regular season. Next, it is onto Kingston to face the University of Windsor Lancers for the semi-finals on March 8.

♂️🏐 | RECAP

@MACMVB edged a tight second set and powered on from there, beating York in four sets to advance to the @ouasport Final Four for the ninth straight year. #GoMacGo

READ ⬇️https://t.co/20sI8BdneC

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) March 3, 2019

For the first time in seven years, McMaster will not be hosting the OUA Final Four due to formatting changes that no longer guarantee home court for the overall highest-seeded team. Continuing their seven-year streak will potentially require they face off in the finals against the Queen’s University Gaels, the only team against whom the Marauders have a losing record in the regular season, in Queen’s own gym.

“We've kind of adapted to this road warrior mentality where we'll go into anyone's gym and do our thing,” said Richards. “We sort of feel comfort in the sense of being uncomfortable, if that make sense? We want to sleep in hotels, we want to play in different gyms, we want to be in front of other fans. It's just the kind of identity our team's going to take on here in the playoffs.”

 

It remains to be seen how the Marauders will adapt to this wrinkle in their era of dominance. They certainly still have all the tools they need to succeed, including seasoned players, a veteran coach and an all-star-calibre player in Richards who, along with fellow fifth-years Connor Santoni and Jeffrey Driediger, is looking to put his final stamp on a McMaster legacy. The Marauders themselves are not lacking in confidence.

“I love the way our guys are playing right now,” said coach Preston. “I love our style. I think we probably have another level or two left in us to play at. But the way our guys play? The style we play? The passion that we play with? It's everything a coach could ask for.”

Competition remains tough as the Marauders head into their final weekend of the OUA post-season, with the Lancers, the Gaels and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues all looking to displace the reigning champions. It all goes down March 8 and 9 in Kingston.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Graham West

Hard work, toughness and focus are the key elements that have led to Hilary Hanaka’s outstanding success at the university level. After recently achieving the milestone of 1000 career points, Hanaka is looking forward to a season filled with promise.

Hitting 1000 career points is a huge career landmark and it meant a lot to Hanaka, although she stressed the importance the team has had in contributing to her being able to achieve it.

“It’s a pretty big milestone to hit and it means a lot to hit that point,” Hanaka said. “But, of course it’s a team sport overall, so I think I’m more excited to figure out where our team will end up this season…  it's obviously nice to hit that point, but I obviously wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of my teammates and my coach.”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BszRnMfBPy4/

It has not always been easy on the path to greatness for Hanaka as there have been challenges with balancing academics and being a varsity athlete.

“There are positives and negatives. Coming into first year, that was when the big adjustment hit,” Hanaka said. “Obviously, it’s a much bigger time commitment being on a varsity team and having classes every single day, practices every day and you’re away on weekends and just making sure you find the right balance to do everything.”

“With that being said, you’re surrounded by an incredible group of girls, coaching staffs,” Hanaka added. “We have so much support through the athletic department, so whenever things were going downhill, you always had someone to pick you back up.”

Hanaka’s experience with the difficulties athletes can face and her expertise on the court are some of the things that make her a great leader. Being there for her teammates on and off the court is instrumental to the success of the team and something that is incredibly important to her as well.

“Off the court is just as important as on the court when it comes to varsity sports,” Hanaka said.

“Being a veteran player, I’ve been around for five years so I’ve been through most of the things that bring you down and that go on. So just being able to be there for the girls is something that I really strive to do.”

“Just knowing that I’ve been in the position of a first-year, second-year, third-year and even a fourth-year player and things aren't always fun and games there’s always going to be those lows,” Hanaka added. "Being able to make sure the girls are aware that I’m always there for them, whether it’s something basketball-related, life-related, school-related, whatever it might be, that just because I’m a leader on the court, doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader off the court. ”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BtYum4ABzqm/

Whenever Hanaka’s career as a player ends, it will most certainly not be the end to her basketball career. When you have a particularly knowledgeable player who is a natural leader, coaching is always on the horizon. It is something Hanaka is interested in, and given her success as a player, seems very possible.

“I would love to be a coach. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by basketball and it’s been a huge part of my life,” Hanaka said. “Being a player has been incredible, but I think I’m kinda ready to hang up the shoes and move forward. Hopefully down the road, coaching is something that I’ll be put into.”

Always one of the first people in the gym, Hanaka has had an outstanding career so far in the maroon and grey and looks to only improve. The team is one to watch as they continue to play their way to a return to nationals, with their eyes clearly set on taking home gold.

 

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Photos C/O Kyle West

What year and program are you in?

Isabelle: Second year, health sciences.

Tell us, what made you decide to come to Mac?

I: Planning for university in Grade 11, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to swim. So my initial interest in McMaster was because of the health sciences program, and it’s unique approach to interdisciplinary studies. However, as Grade 12 approached and started, I knew that I would miss the sport too much to stop before the varsity experience. The Mac swim team was one of the first recruit trips that I came on, and it was the one I remember the best because I felt at home and part of the family immediately.

Tell us a bit about the season so far? The team and individually?

I: The team has grown significantly compared to last year because quite a few first-years came in, especially on the women’s side. It’s been great to integrate them into the team, and having new training partners and a new dynamic is both refreshing and exciting as we prepare for [the Ontario University Athletics Championship]. I would say that this year, our winter break training camp in Florida was collectively viewed as the hardest training camp that the team has been through, and our hard work is starting to show in the pool as we begin to taper down and see positive results.

If you had to tell us one thing about yourself that people don’t know what would it be?

I: I eat at least one jar of peanut butter a week.

As the OUA Rookie of the Year, do you feel pressure to live up to everything you accomplished last year?

I: Receiving OUA Rookie of the Year last season was very humbling for me, because I came in with no expectations. This second time around, there is definitely pressure for me to perform because I do not want to let the team down, but I know it all comes down to stepping on the blocks and just leaving it all in the pool. I know that my team is there for me stroke for stroke, as I will be for them. If I can finish every race knowing for a fact that I could not have gone any faster, or tried any harder, I will be satisfied, and posting personal bests would be the cherry on top.

Lastly, what are your goals for this season?

I: I am very excited for both Ontario University Athletics and U Sports championships because the calibre of swimmers at both meets has increased, even from last year. To be able to compete with people who have international experience is an amazing, inspiring opportunity, and I would like to just go into the field and race with joy and make the team proud. I’m also swimming a couple of different races from last year, so I’m excited to reach outside my comfort zone and spice it up.

 

The 2019 Swimming OUA Championships will be held Feb. 7-9 at Brock University.

 

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