C/O The Silhouette Archives
This is the year to tune into the variety of varsity sports McMaster offers
The 2020-2021 school year was a frustrating year, with no varsity or intramural sports happening on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the 2021-2022 season offered a full variety of sports opportunities and activities students could get involved in, there were still a handful of disruptions, including the January lockdown that prohibited OUA competitions from continuing as planned.
This upcoming season provides a sense of hope and continuity for sports enthusiasts and novices alike. There are many reasons to watch the sports the university has to offer and below are our top five reasons for why you should get involved this upcoming school year.
1. Everything is open!
As it stands in July 2022, all the facilities on campus will be open to pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, students will not be required to sign up to access any on-campus facilities. Finally, the COVID-19 screening tool used in the 2021-2022 season, MacCheck, will no longer be required for students or student athletes wishing to get involved in any sports activities on campus.
2. More athletes involved in national teams
As the new season approaches, there are more opportunities for student athletes to be involved with junior and senior national team call ups. Although last season had its fair share of athletes being called up to the national teams, this season is promising comparable results.
Although we are still two months away from commencement, Canadian U-21 women’s volleyball team included Marauder Sullie Sundara for the team at the upcoming U21 Pan American Cup in Mexico. Meanwhile from the men’s team, Sam Cooper was named to the Canadian senior national team. Finally, from the wrestling team, Serena Di Bennedetto qualified for the Canadian junior national team.
3. More fixtures added to the teams’ schedule
While the teams were allowed to play last season due to the timing of the pandemic waves their fixtures were somewhat limited. For example, if a team typically had 15 fixtures in the regular season, they were cut down to 10.
From the schedules released thus far, there have been more matches added to the upcoming OUA season. For example, both the men’s’ and women’s’ soccer teams have seen an increase in their schedule from 10 games last season to 12 for this year's regular season.
4. Greater focus on 2SLGBTQIA+ in sports
Over the past season, the Athletics and Recreation Department at McMaster University has organized numerous events students and athletes alike could get involved in. Events like this are key for connecting with the wider McMaster community. Many events have been tailored towards supporting and recognizing particularly communities, including the 2SLGBTQIA+ community on campus.
An event that shed light on this community last season was the Pride Game taking place at McMaster men's and women’s basketball game against the Waterloo Warriors. The goal of the game was to highlight and increase the visibility of 2SLGBTQIA+ student-athletes. Although not confirmed as of July 2022, the event among others to shed light on the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are likely to held again.
5. More racial equality implementation
Over the past couple of years, McMaster has been grilled for consistently letting down their athletes. There were numerous allegations regarding the mistreatment of the athletes representing the school, including the prioritization of white athletes while not responding to Black students for varsity meetings.
This year McMaster put effort into combatting these allegations and has taken action. In late June 2022, the Athletics and Recreation Department hosted multiple peers at their inaugural anti-racism symposium. The goal of this event was to further the conversation within the OUA and OCAA about creating actual changes in athletics and recreation departments at the post-secondary level. Although this one event doesn't signify a complete change in the community’s stance towards racism, it certainly is a step in the right direction and shows a glimpse of hope for the future of McMaster athletes.
The women's wrestling team has made much progress this season.
Although it is not the most publicized sport at McMaster, the Marauders wrestling team has made a very good breakthrough this season. Just in their last home tournament that took place in November, the Marauders collected a total of six medals, three of which were silver and gold.
Out of the six medals won by the wrestling teams, four were from the men’s, while the other two were from the women's team. One of the gold medal recipients (50kg weight category), Ligaya Stinellis, who is a part of the women's team, has spoken about how proud she was of the team and the extensive success that they have achieved this season.
Having been in the team since her debut in her first year, Stinellis, now a fourth-year student, is considered a veteran in the team and her results have certainly proven that over the course of last year.
“We have done really well and I am proud of it. We are currently in the top five in the country and are aiming to do even better. So far, we have had three meets and one club meet that we have taken part in. Overall, all of them went really well but I only managed to compete in two of them. However, none of us know what is going to happen from January onwards,” said Stinellis.
When asked to expand on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the sport as of late, Stinellis had a lot to say on the subject.
“It was and still is taking a big effect on the sport. Since us wrestlers have to have close contact during our fights, there is simply no way of curbing the spread of the virus. So if someone has it in the team, practically everybody does,” said Stinellis
However, she did mention that this semester brought her hope even though the future seems uncertain.
“The fall semester was definitely the most exciting COVID-19 period for us. We had many tournaments and we got the green light to partake in multiple events around the province. Although that did bring us hope, we are now in such an uncertain period where we don't know what is going to happen. We were meant to have three tournaments in January, but they have been called off,” said Stinellis.
On the subject of the new restrictions and Ontario University Athletics being labelled as "amateur," Stinellis felt that the label doesn’t quite suit the organization well.
“Although to me the idea of amateur sports is when you're not getting paid, the OUA are much more than just an amateur organization. I feel that we should be seen as elite because there are so many athletes here that have olympic potential. It’s just going to kill our sport and it feels like there is no potential,” said Stinellis.
Although the wrestling team has thoroughly impressed this season, there is still no word on what's next for them. Should current restriction be upheld, the OUA will resume after Jan. 27.
By: Adriana Skaljin
Cassandra Rufenach is a fourth-year biology student and wrestler for the McMaster wrestling team. Rufenach started wrestling in the 11th grade for half a season, and played a full season in her final year of high school.
Her decision to start wrestling was inspired by her love for taekwondo, which led to a desire to do something that shared the same level of physical contact. She loved her experience on the high school wrestling team, and continued her career at McMaster for the past four years.
“There was a big transition going from high school to university-level wrestling,” explained Rufenach. “At McMaster, we started to learn the sport [beyond] having fun, so I had to relearn everything I knew.”
“I started [late into high school] because I didn’t know that women were allowed to be on the wrestling team,” said Rufenach on her experience going into a male-dominated sport. “I remember being told that it was a boy’s sport, but I joined anyways because I was already [participating in] fighting sports.”
Rufenach accounts for the physicality of wrestling as the reason why it is male-dominated. This is reflected in McMaster’s roster size, with the men’s team approximately double the size of the women’s.
“The sport [requires a high level of] physicality and is a tough and aggressive sport,” explained Rufenach. “Whenever I tell anyone that I am on the wrestling team, they are surprised because of my size and the fact that I don’t fit the [wrestling stereotype].”
— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 15, 2019
This disparity is not just limited to wrestling, despite the fact that many women show interest in athletics. Rufenach notes that there is still more progress that needs to be made .
“We need to bring [more] awareness to women in sports and show that girls are just as capable as guys,” said Rufenach. “We need to make [female athletics] more apparent [in society] and provide equal highlights for both sexes.”
Despite her acknowledgement that wrestling is a male-dominated sport, she commends her team on being inclusive and equal between the male and female wrestlers.
“The male wrestlers on the [McMaster] team are good at being welcoming to us females and there is no exclusion,” said Rufenach. “There are physical differences between the women and the men, and the guys take that into account and wrestle us more tactically [in practice].”
“Everyone has their own individual areas of improvement,” said Rufenach on the team’s dynamic. “As a whole, our closeness helps [to unify us by the fact] that it is our sport.”
When asked about her individual areas of improvement, Rufenach explained how last year she was able to crack the standings unlike the year prior. She owes her new found success to her personal motivation tactics.
“I tell myself to stay calm [before a match] and remain focused,” said Rufenach. “Each match is a learning experience. It should not matter if you win or lose. You need to focus on wrestling your best and at a level that you will be proud of.”
Rufenach provided advice to any woman considering a start in wrestling.
“It’s going to be hard work; you need to be aware that hard work pays off,” she said. “Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it is considered a male-dominated sport. It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter.”
It is evident that with passion, perseverance and acceptance, female wrestlers such as Cassandra Rufenach have the ability to participate in the sports they love. It is important to move past the male-normativity that is placed against sports, such as wrestling, and strive to recognize female athletics.
This weekend, the McMaster wrestling team headed to the York University Open, and two Marauders came home with one more medal than they came with.
Rookie Ligaya Stinellis took home her second divisional gold of the season and second-year Simi Jayeoba took home silver. We caught up with the two Marauders after their victorious weekend below:
Ligaya: First year, general social science
Simi: Second year, level one engineering
L: Instead of psyching myself up as I have in the past, I went into this tournament calmer and not as nervous. I just try to be as competitive as possible, and go to the mat and to do what I practice.
S: It was good to compete, and just over the last few weeks we’ve been going to different tournaments, so it’s nice to see actual progress.
L: I went on Facebook, and I was being tagged in a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t realize it was the McMaster Athletics account that I was getting the notifications from. When I checked, I was in shock, but I was super ecstatic. Right away, I told my mom and she too was so excited.
L: I’m actually from Hamilton, and I absolutely adore it. But school wise, I’ve heard a lot of good things about the human behaviour program here at Mac, so academically it checked the boxes. Wrestling wise, I’ve been practicing with the Mac team since high school, so coming somewhere where I was already comfortable was a really big selling point for me too.
S: It’s a great school academically, and the environment here is very welcoming. That was something very important to me, to go to a place where I could feel like it’s another home. The wrestling team was made up of good people and good training, so it seemed like the right opportunity.
L: One thing that always surprises people is that I’ve been doing karate since I was about four years old.
S: I just started knitting. One day last year, I walked into the library in Westdale, and a lady showed me how to knit. I never really started doing it, but I needed some Christmas gifts so I picked it up again.
L: I am hoping to make it to nationals. So, qualifying at the Ontario University Athletics Championships and then making it to nationals.
S: I want to constantly challenge myself to make sure whatever I’m doing, despite the outcome, I put my whole heart into it. And to just grow, not only physically but mentally as a wrestler.
Stinellis and Jayeoba performance this weekend has helped the Marauders women’s team secure the No. 9 national spot in the U Sports rankings this week. Up next, they host the Ontario Senior Provincials this weekend on Nov. 24.
[spacer height="20px"][thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]