By Dylan Matthias, Sports Editor
Dalhousie field hockey are the Atlantic region champions.
Thanks to an upset win against Saint Mary’s and a clutch performance against host UPEI two weekends ago, the Tigers have taken home their first banner in 25 years.
“Everyone’s just pumped,” says Danielle Dempsey, a winger on the Tigers and scorer of the tournament-winning goal against UPEI. “We’ll be sitting in class and it just sort of comes to mind: we won. We won AUS.”
The Tigers lost their first game of the tournament against UPEI after a five-hour bus ride. According to ten-year head coach Linda Bonin, the team “were totally fired up and wanted to win” against Saint Mary’s in the semi-final. “They played with heart and soul and gave it their all,” she says. They beat Saint Mary’s 1–0, setting up a thrilling final win against UPEI.
The victory qualifies the Tigers for OUA playoffs and gives them a shot at the CIS national tournament.
“I’ve honestly never seen an Ontario university team play, so I have no idea what to expect,” says Danielle Dempsey, a third-year winger with the Tigers. Dalhousie play in the Maritime Field Hockey League as a competitive club team, so they have to qualify for CIS through the OUA bracket. Inter-conference play between clubs is rare. “We’ll see what happens,” says Dempsey.
“The Ontario league has been notorious for being strong,” says Bonin. “We have a lot of focus and a lot to work on before we go.”
No matter the result in OUA playoffs, the Atlantic banner for Dal is a huge achievement.
“It’s definitely made the university look at us in a new light. Before we were just that team who wants to be at a higher level and now we’ve kind of proved that we can be right there with UPEI and Saint Mary’s and the other varsity teams.”
According to Dempsey, the university only started paying the CIS league fees for the field hockey team last year after a strong tournament result by the Tigers. She’s hopeful that this result will lead the way to more funding for the team.
Money is something Dal field hockey needs right now. According to both Dempsey and Bonin, the team needs about $16,000 to attend the OUA tournament.
“Dal does pay our CIS fees,” says Dempsey, “but they don’t pay a whole lot else. Our coach actually found a different bank account and Dal did add a little bit more money, so we’re up to like nine thousand right now, but we have a lot of fund raising to do.”
“Anything beyond our season is self-funded,” says Bonin.
The team held an exuberant bake sale last Friday in the Life Sciences Centre next to Tim Hortons.
“Last year we did a lot more fundraising, actually. This year we were a little slow getting started. Obviously we’ll be a lot more on the ball now.”
“We’re about halfway to our mark,” says Bonin.
It’s been a slow growth for the Tigers over the last decade. Bonin remembers when the team lost their varsity status and she helped rebuild the club with then-head-coach Lori-Ann Andrews.
“Once the varsity was gone, with the Atlantic University Field Hockey League now having six teams, it also grew and became more competitive. So the girls (were) dedicated, they wanted to play hockey, they wanted to win.”
“Last year we received varsity club status and that’s really driven them to go to CIS, which is the ultimate goal.”
The Tigers host an annual tournament in October each year, although it’s already taken place this year. OUA playoffs start this weekend (Oct. 29-31).