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The best of 2019-2020

With Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and other league competitions returning this month, it’s time to get ready for the roller-coaster ride a full season of university sport presents us. 

What better way to prepare for the season to come than by revisiting some of the most exciting, inspiring and overall fantastic moments from Dalhousie University Tigers players, teams and more in the last full season of 2019-2020? 

If you can remember that far back, anyway. But a verbal queue or two will hopefully ring a bell and remind you how memorable the most recent Tigers season was. 

Number five: U SPORTS Top 100 basketballers list features Dal alumni 

In February 2020, U SPORTS unveiled its picks for the top 100 women’s basketball players in the past 100 years. Two Tigers alumni, Kathy Spurr and Anna Stammberger, were selected. 

Both followed similar paths to stardom at Dal. Stammberger watched from the bench in her rookie season of 1978-1979, before working her way to two Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championships in 1980 and 1982, along with numerous school and conference allocations, plus an Olympics appearance in 1984.  

The Tigers originally recruited Spurr for swimming in 1985, but her talent and work ethic on the court couldn’t be denied. She captured multiple honours, including an AUS championship of her own in 1986. 

Number four: Impressive season in the water 

In 2019-2020, the men’s swimming team saw an impressive two-decade run of AUS titles end at the hands of a strong Acadia University Axemen team, despite championship-worthy performances at the AUS finals. But the women’s squad looked stronger than ever, extending a 20-year title streak of their own another year with exciting races both in the AUS and nationally.  

Particularly, Isabel Sarty won multiple AUS golds, broke her own AUS record in the 100-meter freestyle event and won bronze in the 50-meter freestyle at the U SPORTS championships. No one from the women’s team had medaled nationally since 2017 until that point.  

Christian Payne also broke personal best times in the 50-meter backstroke at nationals as the highlight on the men’s side, capping off successful seasons, especially against powerhouse programs from the University of Toronto and other Western Canadian schools. 

Number three: Dal continues to dominate track & field 

There’s plenty to take from the Tigers’ AUS championship seasons (and successful U SPORTS championships) in 2019-2020. Let’s begin with the women’s Tigers ludicrous 31st consecutive AUS title, backed by record-setting performances from sprinter Maya Reynolds and combined athlete Lorena Heubach. There were plenty of feel-good stories, like the touch of teamwork used between brothers Hudson and Harmon Grimshaw-Surette to capture one race. To find out more, read Dynamic Duo Brings Home Gold on dalgazette.com to learn more.  

Sprinter Matt Coolen finished the year as the talk of the conference, though. In his final season of an accomplished university career, he dominated at the conference level before winning the national event in the 60-meter hurdles. This marked his third U SPORTS gold and fourth medal overall in the event. 

Number two: Volleyball Tigers endure ups and downs in unforgettable season 

The women’s volleyball team captured an eighth consecutive AUS title in 2019-2020. They won in one of their most difficult seasons in their nearly decade-long dynasty.  

Not only were they sent home on the eve of the U SPORTS nationals (supposed to run from March 13-15, 2020) due to COVID-19, where they were heavily favoured to medal in a nearly undefeated season.  

The team rallied around team veteran, Victoria Haworth, whose father and avid Tigers supporter Brad fought cancer during the season, sadly passing the following April.  

The performances of Haworth and three-time AUS MVP Courtney Baker were for the ages, topping statistical leaderboards and capturing honours all season. Many of Dal’s standouts in 2019-2020 will be back this fall, with the experience of multiple AUS championships on their side. 

Number one: Men’s basketball makes a statement 

The men’s basketball Tigers accomplished what no other Dal team ever has in March 2020 – they played in the U SPORTS Final 8 basketball championship. It was a year they’ll never forget. From losing just twice all year, to Alex Carson officially becoming “Mr. Three-Pointer” at Dal by breaking the all-time program record for three-point shots made and Keevan Veinot putting up a memorable MVP campaign, Dal officially established themselves as a force on the national stage. 

Having led late in the final, Dal finished the game without the result they wanted. However, players and coach Rick Plato have stressed 2019-2020’s only a sign of things to come. Given the team culture Plato and his group have worked to establish in the off-year, the Tigers will likely be the team to beat again this year. 

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