Mixed Results for Dalhousie Teams
There was a great deal of promise and anticipation for the Dalhousie Tigers athletics program heading into the 2009-10 varsity season. No less than five teams were expected to be in contention for AUS championships, including the soccer teams, men’s volleyball, men’s basketball, and women’s hockey.
The men’s hockey team and women’s volleyball team were expected to show considerable improvement in their second seasons under Pete Belliveau and Rick Scott respectably, while no one was certain of what to expect from women’s basketball under first year head coach Anna Stammburger.
It was to be the year of the Tiger. Perhaps the first season in a long time when AUS sports fans in Halifax would be hearing more about Dalhousie teams than the programs of rival Saint Mary’s down the street.
Dalhousie coaches, athletes, and administrators would probably agree that, so far, results have been a little disappointing.
The losses of the Tigers Soccer teams in their respective AUS championship tournaments were a major blow. Both teams were expected to advance to championship games after extremely successful seasons which saw both squads earn national rankings. Both teams faltered in the semi final; the women’s Tigers losing to Saint Francis Xavier; the men’s team losing to UPEI on a bitter late Sunday afternoon at Wickwire Field.
The Men’s Tigers seemed shell shocked in their semi final after UPEI scored 2 goals toward the end of the first half. The first goal will always be a point of contention for Coach Pat Nearing, as AUS All Star Goalkeeper Ben Ur took a cleat in the face on a play that should have been whistled down.
Jerrod Murphy, Ben Painter, and Jimmy Mayaleh then added three brilliant individual efforts to put the Panthers up 4-1 late in the game. The Tigers made a desperate comeback but could not get the equalizer.
Dal Gazette soccer writer and SSNcanada analyst Dylan Mathius attributed the lost to a discernable lack of speed for the Tigers on the outside.
A disappointing end to what had been a storybook season for the Tigers. However with the majority of players coming back, including All Conference midfielder Ross Hagan, the Tigers should be a force next year.
The defending AUS champions returned to the court as heavy favourites to repeat. The team came in brimming with confidence having acquired a legitimate big man in Joe Schow, an extremely athletic swingman in Mari Peoples-Wong, and a solid group of returnees led by All Conference point guard Simon Farine.
The one noticeable absentee was Metro Centre hero Josh Beattie, the gunner from Bedford who decided to take the year off to focus on studies. Beattie lit up the X-Men in the AUS final last year from the three point line and has been missed by the Tigers this season, although rookies Peoples-Wong and Chris Hunt have shown promise (Hunt is 14/24 from three point land) and 5th year senior guard Andrew Sullivan was starting to round into form before the break.
The team started the season with a bevy of double digit exhibition wins over teams from Ontario, but have been mediocre at best in AUS play. The team beat bottom feeders UNB and Memorial to begin the season, but finished with 3 bad losses to tier 1 opponents, Cape Breton and X. It’s never easy to win games in Sydney and Antigonish, but the loss to the Capers at Dalplex had to be disappointing to Coach John Campbell.
Farine and Peoples-Wong have yet to look comfortable on the floor together and Farine has seemed passive, especially in the first half. Farine may have to put the team on his shoulders again like he did at the AUS championships last March.
On the bright side for the Tigers, Jason Wang has been an effective post player off the bench, making up for the play of Sandy Veight who has yet to be effective inside. Schow has shown flashes of brilliance and has very nice touch around the basket, but at times has displayed a lack of conditioning.
With St FX and Cape Breton looking very strong, and Saint Mary’s and Acadia improved from last season, the road to repeat will be a difficult one for the Tigers.
The major storyline for the Tiger’s women’s basketball team heading into September was the retirement of long time coach Dr. Carolyn Savoy. Anna Stammburger began her tenure as Head Coach with a depleted backcourt after the team lost several key players from last year’s finals team to graduation.
With Jenna Kaye, Kelly Donald, and Brianna Orr gone, the ball was handed over to senior Rachel Harrison and the athletic rookie duo of Trish Mcniel and Anna Von Maltzahn. Harrison struggled with the role of primary ball handler and the first year guards went through a baptism of fire as the team suffered horrible losses in preseason. It did not help that dynamic forward Alex Legge was still rehabbing and would not be available until January.
Christmas came early for Stammburger when 5th year senior April Scott came out of retirement just before a weekend set vs. Memorial in mid November. The savvy guard brought immediate stability to the backcourt and provided some easy baskets for Laurie and Leah Girdwood who had been clearly frustrated in the early going of the season.
The Tigers finished the term with a record of 1-6, but with 13 games left including 8 points to be had against Carly Clarke’s rebuilding UPEI Panthers; Dalhousie could still make a run for the playoffs.
With the addition of Scott and the return of Legge, the team now has a very solid 8 player rotation which includes solid post player Caitlin Crosby. The Tigers suddenly feature a nice balance of guard play, athleticism, and size, and will be a tough team to beat in February as they continue to gel.
Next Week: Recaps of first term play for the Tiger’s Hockey and Volleyball teams.