X-Men and X-Women reach new heights
A total of 14 varsity teams from a wide array of sport competed in the AUS and proudly donned the white & blue this school year. It was a year filled with highs (Rugby national championship) and lows (winless X-Women Basketball team) but enthralling nonetheless. Here is a brief rundown on each team’s season.
Soccer: After finishing fourth at the end of the regular season, the X-Women had a valiant run in the AUS postseason, falling in agonizing fashion in the final 1-0 to Cape Breton. The semifinal was a nail biter, as the team prevailed in extra time after a dramatic penalty kick goal at the death. Two players, striker Kelsey Ellis and midfielder Mercy Miles were honoured with second-team All Canadian spots at the end of the season.
For the men, it was another difficult ending to the season. For the second straight year, rival UNB Reds dispatched the X-Men in the semifinals. This time, it was 2-1 in extra time. AUS all-star and last season’s U Sports Player of The Year Dan Hayfield had a penalty kick to tie it in the extra frame, only for it to be turned aside. In brighter news, Hayfield and defender Josh Read were named to the All Canadian Second Team, while Ayoub Al Arabi was named to the All-Rookie team. Captain Liam Elbourne was bestowed the prestigious honour of being named a Rhodes Scholar. He was the number one ranked student in the Business Administration program with an average of 94.25%! The Scholarship enables him to attend the hallowed Oxford University in England.
Football: A victory in the AUS Loney Bowl was the highlight of the year, buoyed by Kaion Julien Grant, a potential top ten pick in the CFL draft which is happening on May 2. Fourth year Jordan Socholotiuk was the only back in U Sports to rush for 1000 yards. The season ended with a 63- 0 loss in the National Semifinal to the eventual champions Laval Rouge et Or.
X-Women Rugby: Running out of superlatives to describe this team, as it was another dominating year. The team wrapped up its sixth U Sports National Championship, winning against the Guelph Gryphons 41-24. Prop Joanna Alphonso was the catalyst for the team, as she was honoured with Female Athlete of the Year at StFX’s Athletic Banquet this past weekend. They also won their 20th AUS championship, when they defeated vaunted rivals Acadia handily by a score of 31-7.
Cross-Country: In the first year of Eric Gillis’s tenure as head coach of the Cross-Country program, both teams finished 12th at the National Championship in Kingston, Ontario. Rachel MacDougall was the first of the X-Women to cross the line, 55th overall.
The highlight of the year on the women’s side was the first place showing at the Moncton Invitational in October. They had six of the top 11 places. They also came second in the AUS championships in another fantastic team performance with four athletes in the top 10.
The men took home the AUS banner, with Angus Rawling winning his second straight gold medal. Alex Nueffer won bronze and Paul Maclellan was hot on his heels, finishing fourth. Rawling was also honoured with AUS male cross-country athlete of the year. The team also had a podium sweep at the Moncton Invitational with Rawling, Nueffer and Maclellan finishing one-two-three respectively.
Basketball: It was a year of intrigue for both basketball teams, as the men finished 7-13 on the year, and was able to claim the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. However, they were dispatched by Cape Breton in the AUS quarterfinals by a score of 89-66. After the year, it was reported that former X-Men player Tyrell Vernon will be taking over the head coach position in two years from Steve Konchalski, ending his mammoth tenure at the program.
On the women’s side, it was a disappointing first year for Head Coach Lee Anna Osei, as the team went 0-20. She was controversially suspended for the tail-end of the season after a report came out that showed bruising on a player’s arms after a ‘disciplinary measure’ during practice. She will resume head coach duties next year and will be helped by Vernon, who will be acting as an associate coach for the next two years on both basketball teams.
Track and Field: The teams had 11 athletes compete at nationals in Winnipeg. Prior to that, the women finished second at the AUS championships and the men placed third.
Throughout the season, a plethora of school records was also broken: Fifth-year Tim Brennan set a new 600m record with a time of 1:20.05. Angus Rawling followed up his successful cross-country season with a record in the 3000m of 8.03.34. This broke his own record that he set last season. Kirishnia Cooper took the record of triple jump with 13.14m. Relay teams in the 4x200 and 400 also set new records, and those teams featured Brennan, Adrian Kinney, Eric Sutton and Brad Barclay.
For the women, Jane Hergett took the 600m record at 1.33.96. The 4x800m relay team of Zoe Johnston, Paige Chisholm, Aidan MacDonald and Hana Marmura ran a time of 9.29.31 to set a new record.
Hockey: After a great regular season, the X-Women’s season came to an emotional end in the AUS finals, as they lost the final game of the best of three series 2-1 to the St. Thomas Tommies. Star Defender Lindsey Donovan was honoured with a selection on the All Canadian U Sports First Team. Gearing up for next season the team also announced the additions of two assistant coaches and locals to Antigonish: Trevor MacIssac and Bryan Smith.
It was a rollercoaster of epic proportions for the men’s team. In the final month of the regular season, a massive brawl-- provoked by a player on Acadia -- dominated the headlines.
The team had to deal with suspensions and tough injuries heading into the posteasosn. Luckily, they got hot at the right time and were able to come away with a bronze medal at the U Sports Championship, dispatching the Saskatchewan Huskies 5-1.