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Fall varsity season preview

Four Tigers teams start their seasons this weekend

The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) league gets underway this fall with the soccer and cross-country seasons leading the way. The first cross-country competition of the year, the  Dalhousie  University/Saint Mary’s University  Invitational Meet, is on Sept. 7 at Point Pleasant Park, while the men’s and women’s soccer teams head to Moncton for their first game of the regular season against  the  Université de Moncton  Aigles-Bleus on Sept. 6. Here’s a look at these four Dalhousie Tigers teams  as  their seasons begin.  

 Men’s soccer  

The men’s soccer team excelled on the defensive end last season. Keeper Ben Grondin started the year with eight shutouts in a row, eventually leading the Tigers to a 7-3-2 regular season record. The rest of the team provided considerable depth:  Isaiah McCullough, returning for his fourth season with the Tigers, and rookie Alex  Knesaurek  anchored the back end, while Mike Trim and Quinn Park were strong on the wings. After winning a quarter final match against the Acadia  Axemen, the Tigers made it to the semi-finals of the AUS playoffs but lost to the defending national champions, the Cape Breton University Capers. With almost their entire roster set to return this season, the Tigers are in a good position to contend for an AUS championship this year if they can figure out a way to strengthen their offensive game. Watch out for third-year  Enrico Rodriguez, who was a points leader last year, to be a key part of that effort. The men’s soccer team plays their home opener on Sept. 8 against the Acadia  Axemen at 3:15 p.m. at Wickwire Field.  

Women’s soccer  

The women’s soccer season in 2018 told a similar story to the men’s team: they had a strong defensive core, led by former AUS rookie of the year keeper Kate Fines, but struggled to find the back of the net on the other end of the pitch. Although the Tigers clinched a playoff spot with a regular season record of 7-4-1, they lost to the Memorial University Sea-Hawks in the quarter finals of the AUS championship. Look to strikers Riley Donovan, Josie  Oickle  and Sofia Nicolls to lead the offensive game next season. The team is losing fifth-years Taylor Goodwin and Jensen  Hudder, but the Tigers have added a handful of recruits — including three keepers. With new talent on the way, the team should be a threat this year as their young stars continue to develop. The women’s team plays their first home game at 1 p.m. on Sept. 8 against the Acadia Axewomen at Wickwire Field.  

Men’s cross-country  

Last season, the men’s cross-country team finished second at the AUS championship against a strong  StFX  team. With most of their top runners returning this year, the Tigers should be in a good position to improve on that result and reclaim the banner, which they won in 2017. Third-year James Cromack, who was Dal’s top runner with a sixth place finished in the conference last season, should be a contender for a medal this year.  Callum Drever, Hudson Grimshaw-Surette, Mike Rogers and Trent Lynds all finished in the top 20 and should provide a strong core for the team. It looks to be  an  improvement on last season’s success if these runners continue to develop and score points for the Tigers.  

In this image: A large group of women start running in a cross country race.
For the sixth year in a row, the women’s cross country team won the AUS championship. Photo by Sarah Moore

Women’s cross-country  

The women’s cross-country team won the AUS championship for the sixth year in a row and ran to a ninth place finish at U Sports nationals  last season. Key to that effort were fifth-year runners Michelle Reddy and Ellen Chappell, as well as Sophie Watts, a fifth-year transfer from Guelph. Losing that depth this season, the Tigers will need younger athletes to step up and contribute. Look to third-year Savanna Jordan, coming off of a second place AUS finish and a  20th place  finish at nationals last season, to lead the group. Georgia Waller, who crossed the finish line at AUS championships in 13th place in her promising rookie campaign last season, should provide a key piece as well, but the Tigers will need four more runners to provide some depth in order to continue being successful in the conference.   

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