Top 10 MRU Cougars moments of the decade
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
1. 2019 men’s soccer striking historic first-ever Canada West medal
No questions asked, this is the top moment of the decade.
The boys in blue representing MRU earned a 9-4-1 record which amounted to the most wins in a season, most points in a season, an undefeated record at home at 6-0-1 that also included the school’s first Prairie Division title, first playoff win in program history (at home); reaching the semi-finals for the first time, before striking Mount Royal’s first ever Canada West medal when they won bronze during playoffs.
Cougars rookie Dane Domic was named both Canada West and USPORTS rookie of the year while head coach Ryan Gyaki was named Canada West coach of the year.
Just weeks after the season ended with a bronze medal, sophomore Moe El-Gandour was selected ninth overall in the second round by hometown professional soccer club Cavalry FC.
2. 2019 men’s volleyball becoming the first MRU club to reach nationals
Coach Shawn Sky enjoyed his men’s volleyball program’s most successful regular season while in their seventh year since the move to USPORTS.
The Cougars finished their 2019 season with a 15-7 record that was covered in accolades.
MRU peaked as high as second in the USPORTS national rankings and were ranked inside the top 10 every week during the season while a winter semester slump dropped them to fourth in Canada West, but still made playoffs after failing to qualify the year before.
Despite this, MRU hosted their first ever playoff quarter-finals before reaching the Canada West semifinals for the first time but falling short to eventual winner Brandon Bobcats.
The 2019 men’s volleyball squad also became the first MRU club to represent the school at the national stage as the Cougars booked a trip to the USPORTS playoffs but fell short in the quarter-finals.
3. Back-to-back women’s volleyball gold medals in final two years under the ACAC
No one rode off into the sunset better than the women’s volleyball program in 2012 during Mount Royal’s last season under the college level.
The Cougars were the lone MRU club to finish with back-to-back gold medals while also snapping a gold medal drought that dated back to the 2007-08 season.
4. Men’s volleyball senior Tyler Schmidt becoming Canada West’s all-time leader in kills and points in 2019
Cougars outside hitter and senior Tyler Schmidt moved into first place on the all-time Canada West career points kills list, finishing with 1,482 kills.
He is the lone Mount Royal athlete to own a record to his name.
Schmidt was the the most vital cog in the Cougars machine during their historic 15-7 season that saw the Cougars reach the USPORTS quarter-finals.
He reached the feat during his final regular season game with the Cougars.
5. Farewell: ACAC gold medal for the Cougars
Men’s basketball, women’s hockey and both Mount Royal volleyball squads went out in style during MRU’s final days inside the Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Women’s volleyball and coach Sandra Lamb rode off into the sunset with back-to-back gold medals, picking up their first gold medal since 2007-08.
Women’s hockey repeated a silver medal from the year prior in 2011 to pick up their second gold medal in three years.
Coach Marc Dobbels Cougars ‘ball club upgraded from dirty gold to the real thing after winning bronze in 2011 before winning the ACAC finals for the first time since 2008-09.
Meanwhile, coach Shawn Sky earned his men’s volleyball program’s first gold medal since 2007-08.
6. Women’s soccer’s most successful season to date
Coach Tino Fusco’s women’s soccer program reached historic highs during fall of 2018.
His squad finished with a program-best 6-6-2 record meaning the women’s soccer program set the bar for the most wins in a season, and most points in a season while also finishing in fourth place in the conference.
The Cougars went on to face heartbreak during the playoffs for the second year in a row after falling short on penalty kicks while inside the Canada West play-in game.
7. New year new me? Turn of 2018 year saw women’s hockey reaching new highs
Mount Royal was not in the best position to finish off the 2017 year. They collected a mere five wins through the opening 18 games but the turn of the calendar proved to be the spark MRU needed to turn their season around.
The Cougars went and picked up a win before the holiday break before sweeping back-to-back for the first time since the 2013-14 season, while also picking up their fifth consecutive win for the first time since joining U-SPORTS.
MRU ultimately finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 7-17-3-1 record, clinching the final playoff spot for the second season in a row with three points separating them from the chasing teams.
8. New conference who dis?
2012-13 marked Mount Royal’s inaugural season under the university ranks but that didn’t phase the women’s volleyball squad who were the lone Cougars club to make playoffs with an impressive 14-8 record.
Despite finishing with such a winning record, they finished in fifth inside the competitive Canada West conference.
The team even earned MRU’s first-ever playoff series win as a school but fell short in the Canada West bronze medal match.
9. Five consecutive Canada West men’s hockey semi-finals
Cougars men’s hockey head coach Bert Gilling took over the helm to start the 2014-15 Canada West season that proved to be the start of something special.
Gradually, the Cougars men’s hockey club started to prove themselves as perennial Canada West title contenders.
Gilling brought his NCAA background and instilled a championship-winning culture to the Mount Royal campus.
He won back-to-back Canada West coach of the year awards after leading MRU to a 17-10-1 in his first year while also clinching home-ice for the first time at the Canada West level, reaching the first of five consecutive semi-final appearances and peaking as high as fifth in the national rankings. MRU followed up with a 17-8-3 record, accomplished nearly the same feats but peaked at sixth in the USPORTS top 10 rankings.
Since then, the Cougars went on to both make the playoffs and reach the final four during the next three seasons to close off the decade.
10. 2019 men’s basketball clinching first-ever playoff berth
For the last three years leading up to 2019, the faith of Mount Royal’s playoff hopes were in the balance — losing tie-break after tie-break.
Finally, in 2019, the Cougars controlled their own destiny. The all-competitive Canada West conference has proven that any one team’s season can be decided in October or November. The Cougars, of all teams, know that according to head coach Marc Dobell.
“We had a couple of times we bit ourselves in the foot by losing an early game in the season that came back to haunt us. There’s no easy game in this league — we need to be ready to compete every night just to have a chance,” he says.
A 99-94 win over the Brandon Bobcats on the last day of the season secured MRU a 8-12 record to go along with the men’s basketball’s first Canada West appearance.
“It’s a big move forward for recruiting,” said Dobell.
“We can say that we are a playoff team, and if we can win this weekend that will just help even more with recruiting and the perception on the growth of Cougar basketball.”
The Cougars did eventually lose the play-in game to the Regina Cougars 106-83.