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Huskie Athletics year in preview

By in Sports & Health

It has been hectic off-season away from the field for the athletics organization. In May, their former chief athletics officer, Shawn Burt, resigned after his second year on the job. Their board of trustees saw five community members resign in July. Then in August, they hired their new chief athletics officer.

Dave Hardy will take over in place of Burt. Hardy is an experienced leader in the sports industry who has earned his spot in both the Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

With executive leadership in place just in time for the new season, the Huskies will look to build from the on-field success they earned last year.

It is time to get up to primed for the 2019-20 season.

FOOTBALL

2018-19 results: 5-3 regular-season record, Hardy Cup champions (their first Canada West championship since 2006), lost to Western Mustangs in the national semi-final.

It is the end of the Kyle Siemens era for Huskie Football. Siemens lead the team to their first conference championship since 2006, followed by an appearance in the national semi-final.

Siemens leaves the programs as one of its greatest passers ever, finishing second all-time in passing 7931 yards.

Mason Nyhus is expected to take over quarterbacking responsibilities for head coach Scott Flory. Nyhus spent the last two seasons backing up Siemens, throwing just 94 passes over the two-year span.

Fourth-year Colton Klassen will return to offense. Klassen is a versatile weapon that transitioned from running back to receiver last year, scoring a conference-leading nine total touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Huskies will look to replicate their outstanding performance in 2018 when the dogs had the most interceptions and tied for most sacks in the conference.

Their defensive backfield of Bowan Lewis, Nelson Lokombo, Josh Hagerty and Payton Hall will all be returning this season. The bunch collected seven of the team’s 10 interceptions last year.

Flory led his team to a conference championship in just his second season as head coach. In 2021, he will have his eyes on another shot at the national championship. 

MEN’S BASKETBALL     

2018-19 results: 11-9 regular season record, lost to Calgary in the Canada West semi-final.

Head coach Barry Rawlyk’s team has made the playoffs for three consecutive seasons but have yet to reach the conference championship.

For the past two seasons, the Huskies have lost out to the Calgary Dinos who would eventually go on to hoist the Canada West trophy in both years.

The Huskies will miss the services of forward Joseph Barker and stand out guard Lawrence Moore. He scored the second-most points per game while Barker grabbed the second-most rebounds per game last season.

JT Robinson, Chan De Ciman and Emmanuel Akintunde will all have an opportunity to help lead the team to reach the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

Building off of recent playoff experience, the expectation this year is for the team to reach the playoffs and claw their way to the conference championship stage for the first time since 2014-15.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

2018-19 results: 18-4 regular season record, Canada West champions, lost the bronze medal match at the U Sports championship.

Head coach Lisa Thomaidis’ sustained run of greatness shows no signs of slowing down.

With zero players from last season leaving the team, Thomaidis’ squad is in a prime position to win another banner for a program that has captured the Canada West crown three out of the last four seasons.

Fifth-year player Sabine Dukate will lead for the Huskies. The Latvian guard has been one of the conference’s most consistent players at an elite level, and she has earned a spot on the Canada West first team for the past three seasons.

Fourth-year Libby Epoch will accompany Dukate in the starting back court. Epoch is a premiere point guard in the conference with experience at an international level.

In the front court, fourth-year Summer Masikewich will continue to anchor the defense. The Calgary product has earned Canada West second-team honours for the past two seasons.

Thomaidis holds her team to a high-performance standard, meaning that expectations are to win the conference again and make a run at the national championship.

MEN’S HOCKEY

2018-19 results: 25-3 regular season record (best in program history), lost to Alberta in Canada West championship final.

If there’s anything to know about the Canada West men’s hockey, it’s that it’s a two horse race between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Since the 2000-01 season, Alberta has claimed an astonishing 16 conference championships. Saskatchewan has been the only team in conference to win during that time, with victories in 2006-07, 2011-12 and 2015-16.

Last year, the Huskies lost in the championship final to Alberta for the third consecutive season.

Dave Adoph, the Huskie head coach since 1993, will be without ex-captain Jesse Forsberg, forwards Micheal Sofillas and Parker Thomas — each of whom finished last season as top 10 scorers for the green and white.

U Sports goaltender of the year, Taran Kozun, will also return. Kozun broke conference records with 20 wins, 5 shutouts, 3 consecutive shutouts and 267:53 consecutive shutout minutes in 2018-19.

Expectations for this team will remain unchanged from years past — beat Alberta, win the conference and pursue the national championship.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY

2018-19 results: 16-12 regular season record, loss to Alberta Panda’s in the Canada West semi-final.

The 2018-19 season was their first year without former captain Kaitlin Willoughby. She played her final season for the Huskies in 2017-18, finishing second on the program’s all-time scoring list.

Head coach Steve Kook will have each player from last year return. Kook will have the luxury of seven fifth-years on the roster this year, highlighted by Leah Bohlken, a defenseman who finished second in conference scoring for her position last season.

Fourth-year goalie Jessica Vance is back for another year of dominance. Vance tied for the most shutouts in the conference last season, while landing in the top five in save percentage, goals-against-average and wins.

A full season departed from the K. Willoughby era, the veterans on this team will be expected to improve upon last year’s results.

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL

2018-19 results: 12-12 regular season record, lost in the Canada West quarter-finals.

For the second consecutive year, men’s volleyball will enter the season with a new head coach.

Former head coach Nathan Bennett took last year’s team to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but he left the program for a head coaching position at the University of Fraser Valley.

Sean McKay takes over head coaching responsibilities, coming from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology where he spent the last three years coaching the Trojans to a 51-21 overall record.

Third-year Dylan Mortensen is expected to return, which would be a huge benefit for the team as he was the top rookie in the country two seasons ago.

McKay’s impressive record at SAIT should give fans confidence that this team can head back to the playoffs, especially given the fact that Bennett accomplished that in his first and only year as head coach.

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL

2018-19 results: 9-15 regular season record, missed the playoffs for their 14th consecutive season.

Women’s volleyball enters the 2019-20 season hoping to snap their playoff-less draught.

Mark Dodds took over head coaching responsibilities in 2015-16, following a year that saw the Huskies win just five games. Dodds’ teams have never won more than 10 games,since he’s been head coach.

Last season, Emily Koshinsky finished top five in the conference in kills with 316. Taylor Annala recorded 196 kills, second-most on the team.

This year, Dodds will have to rely upon Koshinski and Annala to break the playoff drought. These two cornerstone outside hitters will have to put together all-star-worthy performances in a competitive conference.

WOMEN’S SOCCER

2018-19 results: 4-6-4 regular season record, lost to Calgary in Canada West quarter-final.

Jerson Barandica-Hamilton enters his sixth year as head coach for women’s soccer. He has led the team to the playoffs each year at the helm, earning conference bronze medals in 2014 and 2016. Since then, the Huskies have failed to go further than the quarter-final playoff round.

Last season, 12 out of the team’s 26 players played their first season of Canada West soccer.

One of those rookies, Payton Izsak, earned the Huskie Athletics female rookie of the year award last season while also earning a spot on the Canada West all-rookie team.

The future for this team is promising considering Izsak’s rookie performance and the incoming fifth-year recruit, Janelle Zapski.

Barandica-Hamilton is pleased with the addition of Zapski as “a player of Jenelle’s qualities always makes your team better and this is a perfect time for our young squad to add another senior player from who our young attacking players can learn from.”

With a year of experience under their belt, plus the addition of senior talent, look for this team to improve upon their quarter-final exit from last season.

MEN’S SOCCER

2018-19 results: 6-6-2 regular-season record, lost to Fraser Valley in Canada West quarter finals.

It is a turnstyle year for men’s soccer. Five players from last year’s team will exit while seven new recruits will join the program.

New recruits Kuhle Bekwayo, Fraser McLeod and Ash Fountaine spent the summer playing with the SK Selects Summer Series squad.

Huskies head coach Bryce Chapman was also the man in charge of the SK Selects team, joined by Huskie players Jacob Powell and Nikolas Baikas. The Selects capped off their summer series on Aug. 11 with a 2-0 win over the Toronto FC II squad.

Baikas showed serious promise last year in his first season as a Huskie, leading the team in scoring with 10 points. He was rewarded for his rookie season efforts with a spot on both the Canada West and U Sports all-rookie team.

Playing competitive soccer against top competition over the summer has only improved Baikas and this Huskies team as they seek to win their first Canada West championship since 2014.

MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD

2018-19 results: Won gold at the Canada West championships, placed 8th at U Sports championships.

Head coach Jason Reindl is the reigning Canada West male track and field coach of the year. Joined the Huskies in 2017, Reindl is the first ever full-time coach for the program.

Last season, the men earned four individual gold medals at the Canada West championships. Kieran Johnston won two of those golds, earning him the Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year award. Johnston went on to win his second consecutive national gold medal in the heptathlon event.

The Huskies might be without Johnston for this season after three years of competition as the national star is considering red-shirting. If he is to follow through and not compete this year, that would save a year of eligibility for usage later in his career.

Even with the potential loss of Johnston, Reindl has demonstrated his ability to get peak performance out of his athletes. Time will tell if they can repeat their collective team performance from last season.

WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD

2018-19 results: Won gold at the Canada West championships, won silver at U Sports championships, their best national finish in 14 years.

On the women’s side of track and field, Reindl has developed an impressive group. The women took home six individual Canada West gold medals. On the national stage, the Huskies gathered one gold medal and three silvers.

The Huskies will enjoy seeing Courtney Hufsmith back for her fourth year of eligibility. Hufsmith won two golds and a silver at the Canada West championships, followed up by a bronze and a silver at the U Sports national championships.

Collectively as a team, last year’s results were the programs best in 14 years, finishing second behind Guelph. Coach Reindl said he was “extremely proud” with his team’s performance given that they were at a disadvantage.

“We had a team of 12 athletes that went up against a Guelph team that had 29, so just the fact that we were able to get within that amount of points was pretty remarkable,” Reindl said.

There should be no need to panic about this years’ team. As long as Reindl is at the helm, they will be in good shape.

WOMEN’S WRESTLING

2018-19 results: Won gold at the Canada West championships, won silver at the U Sports championships.

Women’s wrestling is coming off their best years in program history. They took the team gold at the Canada West championships, highlighted by four gold medals by wrestlers who did not lose a match at the tournament.

They also took home the team silver at the U Sports national championship, along with two individual gold medals.

Head coach Daniel Olver has his team in top shape. This past season, Olver earned both Canada West and U Sports women’s coach of the year honours.

Alexandra Schell, the 48 kg national champion, is expected to return for her fifth and final year of eligibility.

Considering none of their medalists from last season are expected to exit, a national team gold medal is not out of reach for this year’s team.

MEN’S WRESTLING

2018-19 results: Won silver at the Canada West championships, placed fourth at the U Sports championships.

Men’s wrestling was shining with young talent last season.

Logan Sloan put together a rookie campaign to remember, earning both the Canada West and U Sports male rookie of the year award, after his undefeated run at the national title.

As a team, their fourth place finish at the national championships was the best result for the program since 2011.

Much like Reindl for track and field, Olver is known for his excellence as a coach. For the 2019-20 season, Olver will look for his team to capture a medal for the first time since 2007.

CROSS COUNTRY

2018-19 results: The women’s team placed 11th at the U Sports championships while the men did not enter a team in competition.

Track and field coach Reindl also coaches for cross country.

Last season was a building year for the program with just six male athletes and 12 on the women’s side.

Without knowing any of the incoming recruits, expectations for next year are tough to gauge. Reindl just wants his team to focus on improving.

“We were better than last year, so a lot of positives from there and we also had a lot of young runners,” said Reindl. “For them, today was about building experience and working towards next year.”

Corrections 09/12/2019: In the Aug. 29 issue, the article “Huskie athletics year in preview” stated incorrect information. The new chief athletics officer is Dave Hardy, not Dave King. Colton Klassen is in his fourth year with the Huskies, not fifth year. Lastly, the women’s hockey team did reach the semifinal stage in 2018-19.

Tanner Michalenko / Sports & Health Editor

All photos supplied by Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca

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