Cougars’ hunt for nationals still alive
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
The dreams of Mount Royal’s women’s volleyball and hockey teams fight for a national title are still alive despite coming out of their respective series with losses.
Both teams saw the hunt for their school’s first Canada West banner fall short, but their seasons still go on.
Cougar Athletics is enjoying a legendary athletics campaign across the board.
Men’s soccer earned MRU’s first-ever Canada West medal when they won bronze in November. Women’s basketball reached its highest win total since joining USPORTS. Men’s Hockey set a record for wins in a season while women’s volleyball enjoyed the best regular season finish in school history.
“Everyone is learning and feeding off each other,” notes women’s hockey head coach Scott Rivett. “It’s been a build and it’s great to see everyone grow from one another.”
With that being said… step aside men’s soccer! There’s a new Mount Royal Canada West record to be broken.
The Cougars women’s hockey made school history during the weekend becoming MRU’s first silver-medalists.
They fell 2-0 in the best-of-three Canada West finals after getting swept by now back-to-back champions, Alberta Pandas in Edmonton.
“We’ve been getting better and better every year. We learn from experiences and take the next step,” notes MRU coach Rivett.
Last season, MRU forced a game-three against U of S before losing a heartbreaking triple-overtime game. This last weekend was a similar story but MRU took the next step as a program.
This season saw another step forward for the women’s program after facing elimination early after dropping game one against rival Calgary Dinos in the semifinals. Before they went to win the final two games of the series, including a 1-0 overtime win, to not only be the first MRU squad to qualify for the Canada West finals, but the USPORTS national playoff as well.
MRU’s first trip to a conference final however, didn’t start the way they had hoped when the Cougars dropped game one 5-1.
Alberta outshot MRU 25-14 in the opener.
Their dominant stance on defence held the Cougars to just one shot in the second period. Alberta scored all five goals unanswered including two power play goals.
Jayden Thorpe was the lone MRU goal scorer in the series.
The Cougars didn’t help their cause as they took five of the game’s seven penalties.
MRU netminder Kaitlyn Ross was pulled after allowing her fourth goal on her 19th shot and was relieved by Zoe DeBeauville who stopped five of six shots in 14:13 of relief.
Alberta went on to capture their record 14th Canada West title after blanking Mount Royal 2-0 in game two.
Despite a better defensive showing on MRU’s end, their discipline was once again the cause of their downfall.
Alberta’s two markers were on the power play and were 2-5 on man-advantage for the second straight night.
Despite the heartbreak, the Cougars look ahead to their first USPORTS tournament appearance in PEI on March 12-15.
Mount Royal’s epic run comes to an end. The 21-3 Cougars saw their conference playoffs end at the hands of conference powerhouse Alberta Pandas.
The Cougars will get one last shot to qualify for the USPORTS national playoff when they get a chance at MRU’s second-ever Canada West bronze medal match on Friday.
“Our program is very proud of where we’re at,” says Cougars women’s volleyball coach Sandra Lamb.
The Pandas outlasted MRU 2-1 during the best-of-three Canada semifinal series.
Alberta started strong to win game one on the road 3-1 (25-14, 21-25, 29-27, 25-14).
With their backs against the wall for the second straight weekend, the Cougars upped their play to fight another day when they answered back with a 3-1 (18-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18) win of their own.
The Pandas however, sealed the series during the sudden death game three with a 3-1 (25-18, 27-25, 22-25, 25-15) win.
Alberta started strong and opened with a set victory before barely getting by a feisty Cougar counter during the second set.
Down 2-0, the Cougars found a pulse of life when they won the third set 25-22 but the 11-time title holders Alberta got the job done with a decisive 25-15 win in the fourth and final set.
Mount Royal will host the Canada West bronze medal match when the Thompson Rivers WolfPack visit Kenyon Court on Friday, March 6 with first serve set for 7 p.m.