Cougars on the Rise in 2021
By Zach Worden, Sports Editor
With U Sports cancelling fall championship sports in 2020, Canadian university sports fans must look to 2021 for their next chance to see student-athletes suiting up. Dual term sports are on hold until Jan. 1 of next year, at the latest, when there will hopefully be a return to play.
For Mount Royal University (MRU) athletes, that means that six of the school’s eight teams are hoping to get in some kind of season, while both men’s and women’s soccer will be unable to compete in the 2020-21 academic year.
After coming away with three medals — a school record — in Canada West in 2019-20, Cougars athletes will be looking to continue the rise of Mount Royal athletics in 2021. Here are six standouts to look at as they try to lead their teams to the top.
The second-year guard will look to build on a strong rookie season that saw him named to the Canada West all-rookie team. Petrone was one of the best shooters in the country in 2019-20, knocking down 46.9 per cent of his three-point shots.
In addition to making it rain from beyond the arc, Petrone found a way to put up points in a multitude of ways. Playing the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in January, he scored a season-high 20 points while shooting seven of 13 from the floor.
With what promises to be an up-tempo team in 2021, Petrone should be able to improve upon this strong start to his Cougar career.
Martens, like Petrone, will be looking to build off a strong rookie season in 2021. She was named to the Canada West all-rookie team for 2019-20 after scoring 11.3 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game for the Cougars.
If the Canada West had a sixth woman of the year award, Martens would have been at the top of the list. Although she only started two games all year, she still had a significant impact in each of the Cougars games. Her season-high came in a 25-point victory over the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, where she scored 27 points and came away with 11 rebounds.
After the program won their most games since making the jump to U Sports, Martens promises to be a proponent of change for the Cougars.
In a year where the men’s hockey team also set their record for wins, Lindgren was at the front of it all. Now coming into his third year as a Cougar, he was named a 2019-20 Canada West first team all-star after scoring 21 goals and tallying 34 points.
His impact was shown in the Cougars’ 5-3 win in game two of their series against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, where he scored four of the team’s goals.
After such a strong 2019-20, Lindgren will be looked to as one of the team’s leaders with high expectations heading into 2021.
Heading into her fifth and final year as a Cougar, Purschke and the rest of the team have a lot to live up to after their record-setting 2019-20. A trip to the U Sports nationals, a huge overtime win over the favoured University of Toronto Varsity Blues and a Canada West silver medal were all program firsts for the Cougars’ last season.
Building on all of that will be a tall task for the team, but with Purschke — a Canada West second team all-star — set to lead the way with most of last year’s team still intact, the sky’s the limit.
Her 11 goals and 19 points led the team last season, and with a leadership role awaiting her this season, she has all the tools to finish what the team started just a year ago.
Now a second-year Outside Hitter, Byam will step into an even larger role than the one he served as a rookie. A Canada West all-rookie team member in 2019-20, Byam finished second on the Cougars in kills last season with 205, good for 2.56 per set. He was also second on the team in points with 239 as he played a crucial role in his first year.
With fifth-year Trent Mounter graduating, more opportunities will come to Byam as he looks to take what is shaping up to be a younger Cougars team back to contention in the Canada West.
Heading into only her third season at Mount Royal, Thokbuom is coming off a season that most seniors can only dream of having. She was named both a U Sports second team all-star and a Canada West first team all-star, as she led the women’s volleyball team to a 21-3 record and a Canada West bronze medal.
Spending her summers as a member of Team Canada has helped her propel herself to being one of the country’s top players. With her improvement between her first and second years, the Cougars will look to her to continue her high level of play to help the team remain at the top of Canada West in 2021.