Max Burt and Sander Ratsep of the Dalhousie Tigers formed the most dymanic duo across all sports in the AUS this year.
Part 3 of a special look at the top headlines from the AUS this past season.
10. Canadian Basketball University: Capers Dominate AUS.
CBU dominance of the AUS basketball scene has been building for several years, beginning with Fabian Mackenize’s women’s team, and the slow but steady emergence of Jim Charter’s men’s team.
In 2009-10, the Capers officially arrived as the number 1 basketball university in the Maritimes.
For the women’s program, even by their own standards, it was business as usual. Led by 5th year senior Kelsey Hodgson, the leading scorer in the CIS, the Capers would only lose 1 AUS game all season on route to their 4th conference championship of the decade.
The men’s team held off the St.FX X-Men, one of the best teams in the country, to pick up their first conference championship in years. The Capers combination of athleticism and home-court dominance proved to be overwhelming for traditional powers X and SMU, and the reigning AUS champion Dalhousie Tigers.
Jimmy Dorsey emerged as the best pure shooter in the conference and Phillip Nkruma proved to be one of the most intimidating players in the country. Combined with AUS MVP Hodgson of the women’s team and her hard-charging teammate Kari Everitt, no other campus in the region had a deeper pool of talent than the Capers.
Coincidentally, both the men’s and women’s AUS Championship tournaments were held in Sydney this year and the Maritimes were fully exposed to the passion and enthusiasm that Caper’s fans have for their basketball programs.
9. 24 Straight AUS Championships?! Tigers Volleyball Unbeatable Once Again
Take a nationally recognized Coach who doubles as one of the best recruiters in the country, add a 6’9” goliath from Gander, NL, and mix in a perennial all CIS first teamer stolen from the grasp of Ontario. Then sprinkle a group of athletes that would have been the best team in the conference on their own, and you get?
Dalhousie Tigers Men’s Volleyball.
Dan Ota, Max Burt, Sander Ratsep, and a stellar supporting cast featuring the best AUS libeiro in Travis McLean, and 3 outstanding athletes in Devon Parkinson, Graham Higgins, and Eric Montgomery.
The Tigers cruised to their 24th straight AUS championship with minimal press coverage or fanfare.
Coach Ota’s team went virtually unnoticed in Halifax despite having two of the most impressive athletes in the AUS in Burt and Ratsep. Burt’s blocking at the net and precision on “51’s” combined with Ratsep’s breathtaking swing and all or nothing serve was brilliant to watch. They easily formed the most dynamic duo across all AUS sports.
Ratsep and Burt literally dominated matches against overmatched UNB and Memorial all season long, providing one awe struck moment after another on the main court at Dalplex.
The Tigers would drop a heartbreaking 5 set match to the eventual national champion Calgary Dinos at the CIS championship tourney, but this was a group of outstanding athletes coached by a nationally recognized visionary that went unnoticed by all of us all season long.
So congratulations Coach Ota, Sander, Max, and you dynamic bunch of athletes, you may have been the most impressive group of champions in the AUS this season, even though not many of us noticed.
8. Three’s Company; Huskies 3 Headed Monster Wins AUS Championship for Coach Jordan.
I asked Coach Lisa Jordan what she thought of her Huskies way back in September and she seemed less then enthused about her team’s chances of competing with the upper Tier of the conference.
The St FX X-Women were stocked with talent and the Universite De Moncton had the best player in the conference in Marieve Provost. Even the Dalhousie Tigers led by high scoring Jocelyn Leblanc seemed more poised to make a championship run then the Huskies.
But in the end, the Huskies three prong attack of Kori Cheverie, Lauren McCusker, and Kyla Thurston combined for 85 points and proved to be too much for the rest of the conference, as Saint Mary’s was named AUS champs for the first time since 2004.
The Huskies lost 3 of their last 4 regular season games, but caught fire at the AUS Championships, beating both the X-Men and host Aigles Bleues, whipping Moncton 6-2 in the championship game.
The Huskies would go on to finish 4th at CIS Nationals in Antigonish.
7. Huskies Nearly Go Worst To First
It only took 2 years for Scott Munro to drastically change the fortunes of the Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s basketball team. At the AUS Championships, the Huskies tried to do the unthinkable, going from last place in 2009 to AUS champions in 2010.
The defending champs had other ideas. The powerhouse Cape Breton Capers held off a valiant Saint Mary’s team, playing their third game in three days, to capture their second straight AUS banner, their 4th in seven years.
Munro took over a talent depleted Saint Mary’s team in 2009 and suffered some major growing pains as he tried to put his personal stamp on the program. The Huskies finished 2-18 in Munro’s first season, as the rookie coach focused on creating a winning atmosphere before hitting the recruiting trail after the disastrous campaign.
That’s when he landed the most sought after recruit in the country; a player who was garnering a lot of interest from division 1 programs in the United States.
Colley was the prize catch in a stellar recruiting class that brought immediate legitimacy to the Huskies program. Colley averaged 21 points per game on route to garnering AUS rookie of the year and a first team all conference selection.
Colley created a dynamic backcourt combined with 5th year senior Kelsey Daley, leading the Huskies to a 12-8 record, highlighted by a six game winning streak down the stretch.
It was the Huskies first trip to the final in 4 years. Ironically, the Huskies lost to the Capers in 2006, Daley’s first season. Daley would not get back to a championship game again until this past March, beginning and ending her storied career with championship game losses.
6. The Collapse of Dalhousie Soccer
The 2009/10 AUS Soccer season was to be the year of the Tiger.
As summer turned to fall, the Dalhousie Men’s and Women’s teams dominated the competition and gained national rankings as they prepared for conference playoffs.
On a cold and blistering November weekend in the Maritimes, both programs suffered devastating semi final defeats to teams they had not lost to all season.
The women’s team fell 2-1 to a ST FX team they had beaten 5-0 in Antigonish 2 weeks prior. The Men’s team lost at Wickwire field to a UPEI team led by the brilliant play of Jerrod Murphy and Jimmy Mayaleh. The Tigers trailed 4-1 late in the second half and made a furious, spirited comeback that just fell 1 goal short.
In the dying seconds of the game the Panthers and Tigers had a 20 player scrum in front of the UPEI net that may have been the most stirring image of the entire varsity season in Halifax.
As Men’s Coach Pat Nearing said on CKDU Sports prior to the Championships at Dal; soccer can be a cruel game.