‘A historic start’: Acadia student-athletes excel in first half of season

Published on December 31, 2016

Fireworks explode over Wolfville as Acadia hosted the U Sports Women’s Soccer championship in November.

©Peter Oleskevich

WOLFVILLE, NS - The 2016 fall season for Acadia Athletics was highlighted by facility additions, great individual performances and outstanding team accomplishments, says the athletics director.

Although no AUS championships were won by Acadia’s fall sports squads, all five teams finished their respective regular season standings in third place or higher and three were finalists.

“It has been a historic start to our season in that, for the first time, we had four fall sport teams attend national championships. For us, however, winning is irrelevant if it's not layered by academic and community excellence,” said Acadia Athletics Director Kevin Dickie.

“Along with an all-time high of Academic All-Canadians, we celebrated the inception of an academic improvement recognition program and our fourth straight Governor General Award recipient as a Top Eight Academic All-Canadian student-athlete.”

Other student-athletes and coaches also received significant regional and national individual recognition for their athletic talent, leadership and community excellence, Dickie added.

 

Soccer

The Axemen soccer team topped the list of Acadia fall sports with an AUS regular season record of 9-1-2 and a first-place finish. Although they advanced to the AUS final, they fell short of winning their first conference title in 20 years.

The Axemen still qualified for the U Sports championship, but faced off against the number one seed host Guelph Gryphons in the opener. Acadia forced the game into two overtime periods after Cooper Coats notched the game-tying goal at the 56th minute of regulation time. Extended to penalty kicks, the Axemen were unable to advance, finishing on the short end of a 3-2 overtime, penalty kicks loss to the Gryphons. Acadia then fell to UBC in the consolation semifinal.

Several Axemen were honoured by the AUS, including All-Stars Cooper Coats, Ryan Parris and Matt Berrigan. Senior defender Andrew Snyder was named AUS Most Valuable Player while head coach Findlay MacRae was the AUS and U Sports Coach of the Year. Parris was recognized as a second team All-Canadian and Snyder as a first team defender.

As the U Sports Women’s Soccer championship host this past season, the Acadia Axewomen had an automatic berth in the championship tournament. An AUS finalist for three of the last four seasons, the Axewomen team finished third in the regular season, then lost in the AUS final to St. FX after overtime and penalty kicks.

At the U Sports championship, the Axewomen claimed fifth spot after a 1-0 loss in quarter-final play to the number one seeded and defending U Sports champions UBC Thunderbirds and consolation round wins against StFX and Saskatchewan.

Axewomen Michelle Pryde, Emily Nickerson, Kinsella Noseworthy-Smith and Candace Conrad were recognized as AUS All-Stars. Noseworthy-Smith was named a U Sports Second Team All-Canadian striker.

 

Rugby

Despite graduating nine Axewomen from last season’s squad, the Axewomen rugby team set out to defend its 2015 AUS championship by posting a 4-2 regular season record, losing twice to StFX.

Acadia advanced to the AUS finals after a 22-17 win over UPEI. They lost to St. FX in the AUS championship, but proceeded to the U Sports National Championship as the sixth seeded team. The Axewomen dropped their opening game to Calgary and followed that with a loss to McMaster.

Five Acadia players were named to the AUS All-Stars: Annie Kennedy, Natasha Johnson, Harley Tucker, Angela Govier and Gillian Bergsma. Kelsey Brumm, a third-year wing, was named as the AUS and U Sports Community Service Award winner. Tucker and Kennedy were honoured as U Sports All-Canadians for their first season efforts.

The football Axemen face off against Saint Mary’s.

©PETER OLESKEVICH

Football 

The Axemen opened the regular season with a lopsided 30-1 win over the visiting Saint Mary’s Huskies, but suffered six defeats in a row, including tight losses by four points or less to Mount Allison and St. FX in the second- and third-last games of the season. Tied with the Saint Mary’s in the closing weekend of the regular season, the Axemen picked up a 10-3 road win to squeeze into the final playoff spot. Acadia was unable to advance after losing to Mount Allison in Sackville, N.B.

Four Axemen were named to the AUS All-Star squad, including Brandon Jennings, who was also recognized as a U Sports All-Canadian, as well as Keiler Cherry, Garvin Cius and Adam Melanson, while teammate William Wojcik was named the AUS Community Service Award winner and nominee for the U Sports Russ Jackson Award.

 

Cross-Country 

The women’s cross-country team completed the regular season in third place. Margaux MacLean opened the year with a sixth-place finish at the Acadia Invitational held at Noggin’s Farm in Greenwich.

First-year student-athlete Alicia Henry was the top runner for the Axewomen in the remaining four races that included an interlock event at UNB with the RSEQ. Henry’s top race of the regular season was a 10th place finish at the Dalhousie/Saint Mary’s Invitational at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, N.S.

Henry’s performances culminated at the AUS championship hosted by St. FX, where she finished eighth overall and was named the AUS Rookie of the Year. For the first time in recent history, the cross-country team finished on the podium with a third-place team performance. Henry and teammate Chrissy Smith attended this year’s U Sports championship hosted by Laval.

 

Academic All-Canadian 

For the fourth year in a row, an Acadia student-athlete was recognized as a U Sports Academic All-Canadian Top Eight.

Geoff Schemitsch, a fourth-year Kinesiology student, is a first-line defenseman for the hockey Axemen and has maintained a 4.0 sessional GPA. He was honoured this past November in Ottawa at Rideau Hall by Gov.-Gen. David Johnston at a ceremony for all of the Top Eight Academic All-Canadians.

 

Schemitsch was also selected to the U Sports All-Star team that took on the Team Canada Junior Prospects Dec. 12-13.

 

On the national stage

A busy fall schedule was highlighted also by hosting two high-profile events: a U Sports City TV nationally broadcast football game and the U Sports Women’s Soccer championship, which included a steering committee of 12 members and over 50 volunteers that helped make the event possible.

Construction within and outside of the Acadia Athletics complex during the late summer and into the fall was highlighted by the addition of the Stevens Centre. Housing new hockey and football dressing rooms, along with a high performance centre, the addition of the Stevens Centre will bring all of Acadia’s varsity programs to a higher level, Dickie said. 

Marking the 50th aAnniversary of the War Memorial Gymnasium addition, the basketball court was renamed and dedicated to former Axemen basketball coaching great Stu Aberdeen. The court was upgraded with the addition of new state-of-the-art seating donated by several key basketball alumni and friends of Acadia basketball.

 “We hosted an exceptional U Sports Women's Soccer National Championship, renamed our gymnasium, and opened the doors to our new Stevens High Performance Centre. To say that much has happened on our campus over the past few months would be an understatement,” Dickie said.