It may have been a sluggish start for the first batch of Dalhousie varsity teams, but if the first month of play amongst Dal’s winter squads is any indication, there could be a few more banners hanging on the walls of the Dalplex by the end of the year. The first semester was what it was. Both soccer teams didn’t live up to their potential, men’s cross-country was beat handily by St. FX, and when it mattered the most, both soccer teams were unable to click, resulting in an early end to their seasons. The only shining light that cast was the women’s cross-country team, who once again walked away with an AUS title.
But 2015 looks different. At this time last year, women’s basketball was a game under .500, men’s basketball only won one in seven games, and women’s hockey was struggling to get things going offensively.
This year, they’ve completely turned that on its head.
The men’s basketball team sits at the top of the league with an astounding 5-1 record, with their only loss coming in overtime during their season opener against UPEI. It’s looking like the players are finally meshing into Rick Plato’s coaching style, nearly matching their win total from last year in just over a month of play. Three Tigers are averaging over 14 points per game, with third-year forward Kashrell Lawrence leading the way with 20. We’ve seen them knock off the likes of Acadia and St. Mary’s, which are two teams the Tigers have struggled against in years previous. If they’re able to keep their strong communication and work ethic consistent, this young Tigers squad has a realistic chance at receiving their first AUS title in four years.
Women’s basketball, as well, are amongst the top teams in the league at 4-2. AUS second team all-star Courtney Thompson is leading the league with 141 points and 23.5 points per game – which is over seven more than the next closest. Though they’ve struggled to pull out wins in the second games of back-to-backs, they’ve showed true potential when it comes to ball movement and finding the hands of the veteran players who have proven they can score points. It wouldn’t be surprising to see these women at least make it to the finals. Women’s hockey has shown signs of life, too. They convincingly beat AUS second-ranked Moncton 3-0 at the beginning of November, and have pulled off tight victories over their cross-town rival St. Mary’s Huskies on two different occasions. Their 5-8 shouldn’t be an indication of their talent, as they’ve had to take on the powerhouse X-women twice already and have lost four games by just a goal. These women, if able to remain persistent through future tight games, look poised for their first playoff birth in three years.
But let’s not forget about Dal’s powerhouse teams. It would be a mind-blowing shock if the men’s volleyball team doesn’t win their second consecutive title. The team has shown why they’re amongst the best in the country with wins over Montreal, Laval and Queens. They’ve also convincingly beaten their AUS rival UNB Varsity-Reds twice, only dropping one set in doing so.
The only team that may be of a concern that generally isn’t is women’s volleyball. When the team lost the majority of its roster, it was obvious that they were going to have to go through a transition of sorts. It may seem silly to be harping on a team that’s only had five regular season games and is rocking a 3-2 record, but that’s already more losses last year. To continue being on top, this young group is going to have to find ways to grind out tough matches day in and day out.
And men’s hockey is, well, doing better than last year. But they still have a lot of work to do to convince us that they’re a contender.