A look at how the football, rugby, and soccer teams are shaping up for the year

Football

The Gee-Gees football team went 6–2 last season, finishing in a three-way tie for third place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) division. Despite a solid regular-season showing, the Gee-Gees were eliminated from the playoffs by Carleton in the first round.

This year the Gee-Gees will be recovering from the loss of reigning OUA MVP and all-star quarterback Derek Wendel, and all-star receiver Mitchell Baines. The two led the OUA in throwing and receiving yards respectively.

Fifth-year quarterback Victor Twynstra is the heir-apparent to Wendel. In eight regular-season games last year Twynstra had a 66.7 completion per cent, averaging 12.5 yards per attempt, and he is poised to take over as starting QB this year.

While no single receiver will be expected to single-handedly fill the void left by Baines, fourth-year receiver Tyler McLaren will be one of a number of players looking to step up this year. Last year McLaren was second on the Gees with 54.4 receiving yards per game.

On defense, free-safety Ty Cranston is entering his final year of eligibility. Cranston led the Gees with 6.8 tackles per game last season, and will be expected to continue being a leader on defense. The Gees also have a number of young players and new recruits who will be called on to step up on defense.

On top of a large recruiting class, the Gee-Gees had a new member when training camp opened this month. The Gee-Gees debuted the MVPIDRIVE, Canada’s first robotic tackling dummy. The MVPIDRIVE, nicknamed “RoboDom,” was introduced with the goal of reducing injuries by eliminating player-on-player contact during practices.

With a young line-up looking to take the next step forward, and a strong recruiting class, the Gees should be able to make up for the loss of their two star players. It’s expected that they will put up another solid season and then hopefully make some noise in the playoffs.

The Gee-Gees begin their regular season on Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. at Guelph. The Gees’ home opener will be on Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. against Queens. The Panda Game will be on Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. Tickets for all home games can be purchased from the Gee-Gees’ website.

Rugby

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Photo: Remi Yuan.

The Gee-Gees women’s rugby team had a phenomenal season last year, finishing first in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) and getting silver at the national level. This year the team will look to continue the outstanding success they have seen under head coach Jen Boyd.

This year Boyd is going to be full-time at the University of Ottawa, a change that will hopefully help the team both on and off the field.

“My time won’t be mostly at Ashbury (College), so that’s going to make a big difference, just my availability to the athletes,” said Boyd.

Boyd stresses improving each day, and it’s something that she has personally taken to heart in the off-season.

“I’ve been doing a lot of professional development through the winter, through the university and my advanced coaching diploma. So I’ve been working really hard to just keep improving.”

A strong recruiting class joins 27 returning players for the Gee-Gees, and they will be looking to repeat what has made the team so successful in the past.

“Every season we focus (on) the process, not the product,” said Boyd. “As much as we want a national championship we know that those are hard to win. There’s a lot of factors involved and we just try to get better everyday and develop and be stronger and fitter, and be strong role models to young girls.”

Among those 27 returning players is second row Alexandria Ellis, who is entering her fifth and final year of eligibility. Last year Ellis lead the Gees in scoring with 55 points, and she will be called on to lead the offense again this year.

While most of her roster is set, Boyd said that there’s still a chance to add a few more players through open tryouts.

“There’s always someone that surprises. Rugby is still a fairly new sport and some late transfer kids can end up being real players at the U Sports level.”

With Boyd at the helm again, and the majority of players returning from last year’s silver-medal team, there’s no reason to believe that the team can’t repeat their success from last year, and maybe even bring home a national championship.

The Gee-Gees begin their regular season on Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. at Laval. The Gees’ home opener will be on Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. against Concordia. Tickets can be purchased from the Gee-Gees’ website.

Soccer

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Photo: Marta Kierkus.

Last year was a story of two seasons for the Gee-Gees soccer team. After rattling off nine consecutive wins to start the season, the team’s offence dried up and they limped into the playoffs without a win in their final seven matches. Ultimately Queen’s eliminated them in the OUA quarterfinals.

This year the team has a good chance to improve on their 2016-17 performance. Other than striker Victoria Marchand, most of the team will be returning with another year’s experience under their belts.

With a number of players getting their first taste of university sports action last year, this season will be a good chance for those young athletes to take the next step in their development.

Second-year midfielder Katherine Bearne led the Gees offense last season, and she will be looked to again to provide scoring for a team that struggled to find the back of the net down the stretch.

Last season the Gees defence was one of the best in the OUA and they are poised to be a dominant defensive team again this year. The Gees benefited from outstanding goaltending from first-year keeper Julie-Anne Lamarche, who posted a .930 save percentage. If Lamarche can continue her outstanding level of play, she will keep the Gees competitive in every game.

While last season didn’t finish quite the way the team would have liked, there were a lot of positives to take from it, and with a large number of returning players, the team has a real shot at taking a big step forward this year.

The Gee-Gees begin their regular season at home on Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. against Trent. They play again at home on Aug. 27 against UOIT. Tickets can be purchased from the Gee-Gees’ website.