Going out on top
It’s been an incredible journey for Mount Royal University and the Cougars, as the athletics program bids adieu to Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
Once we make the leap to the Canada West conference in 2012-13 to face our Alberta counter-parts, the University of Alberta Pandas and Golden Bears, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and of course, their new inner-city rival, the University of Calgary Dinos.
As a final farewell, we’ll take a look back at how the Cougars ended their final stint in the ACAC.
The men’s soccer program compiled a 5-3-2 (Win- Loss – Tie) regular season record, making them the second ranked squad in the ACAC south division.
Earning a spot at the provincial championships, the Cougars opened the playoffs with a 2-0 shutout win versus the Concordia Thunder and earned their way to semi-final.
Against the tournament host, and undefeated NAIT Ooks, the Cougars were dropped 3-1 – ending their quest for gold a round too early.
Playing a gritty Medicine Hat team for bronze, the Cougars couldn’t find the score sheet, surrendering one goal in a 1-0 loss to the Rattlers.
With 13 ACAC titles, including an unbelievable run of eight straight championships, as well as three national titles, the Cougar men’s soccer program will leave as the most winning men’s soccer program in the ACAC.
With an 8-1-1 through their ten game campaign, the Cougar women were top dog in the regular season for a fifteenth straight season – a remarkable run for a team that lost just nine regular season games in18 years.
Hosting the ACAC provincials, the Cougars earned a spot in the title game, defeating the Concordia Thunder 1-0 in semi-final play.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, that score would repeat and reverse itself, with the Cougars on the losing end of the draw, as they were edged 1-0 by the NAIT Ooks in the final.
With eight ACAC championships, the Cougar women were a force to be reckoned with during their stay in the Alberta conference, winning a banner almost every other season in their 18 year history.
In just its second season of competition in the ACAC – the Cougars will go victorious. Futsal, a variation of indoor soccer, is quickly becoming one of North America’s hottest games and the Cougar women excelled in the narrow confines of the indoor pitch.
Finishing first and second in the season’s two tournaments, the Cougar women scooped up a title on their way out of town, beating the Medicine Hat Rattlers 2-0, for their first and final title in the sport.
In men’s futsal, the team finished in third overall during their two tournament season and the Cougars, looked on their way to sweeping the futsal season.
After scoring the first goal in the final, the Cougars were hit with four straight goals by Lakeland College and leave after two season’s play with a pair of silver medals.
Head coach Marc Dobell and the Cougars men’s basketball team were just one win away from the national gold medal, dropping in the CCAA final to the upstart Mohawk College Mountaineers.
With a regular season that left them as the best unit in the ACAC south-division, the Cougars punished their competition at the ACAC championships, winning by 14 points in the semi-final and 24 points in the championship finale, cutting down the nets on Kenyon Court for one final time as an ACAC member.
Punching their ticket to Nova Scotia for a shot to win it all, the Cougars looked primed for their third national title, defeating Mount St Vincent University and Ahuntsic College to make the final dance.
Against the Mountaineers, the Cougars would lose their first game in over a month, as the Mountaineers took home the gold with a 15 point win.
For the Cougar men, it was their second CCAA medal in the past three seasons, as they won it all back in 2008-09.
The program leaves with double-digit (11) titles in the record books.
Wrapping up top spot in the ACAC south-division for the first time in five years, the Cougar women fielded one of the program’s deepest teams.
Winning a best-of-three game series against the NAIT Ooks, the ladies went to the ACAC’s final four championship and prepped for a matchup with their cross-town rivals the SAIT Trojans.
Pulling out a one point victory in a game decided in the final seconds, the Cougars advanced to the ACAC championship to square off with the undefeated Grant MacEwan Griffins.
The Cougars battled the entire way, but in the end, the Griffins would keep their perfect season intact, as Cougars finished with the ACAC silver medal, their best finish in six years.
As a program, the Cougar women have left their mark, accumulating 16 ACAC championships during their history and one national gold.
The Cougars golf program continues to find success, as both the men’s and women’s team finished the year with silver medals.
While men’s golfer Nathan Schurr won his second individual title in the past two seasons, the men’s team narrowly missed out on another team gold, finishing six strokes behind Grant MacEwan for top prize over the two day tournament.
On the women’s side, Katie Benoit was squad’s top finisher, winning an individual bronze medal and leading her team to within three strokes of gold, as Grant MacEwan was again atop the clubhouse leaderboard.
The men’s squad packed their bags for a trip to PEI, and gained valuable experience at a rain soaked finals, finishing in tenth place.
With 20 team titles since 1965-66 the Cougars golf program has won more than any other Mount Royal squad team.
While the Cougars badminton program didn’t earn a team medal in their final season at Mount Royal, they still enjoyed a number of impressive performances from a few special players.
On the men’s double’s side, teammates Braden Cross and Colin Szpecht, finished strong, earning an ACAC bronze medal in their discipline, just one of the Cougars three medals to end their tenure.
Haily Coakley, also took him third prize in women’s singles, as she proved her mettle against some of the provinces most distinguished players – while it was Coakley teaming up with Colin Szpecht to pull out the gold medal in mixed-doubles, as they downed the top ranked duo in the province, 24-22 and 21-14.
The winning pair set their sights on the CCAA nationals and finished fifth place overall – winning in the final match ever in Cougars badminton history.
As the Cougars transitioned over to Canada West, they will say a sad farewell to the badminton program, as the sport isn’t offered at the Canada West level, leaving the storied program without a home for future competition.
It was a case of history repeated for the Cougars women’s volleyball team as they once again ended the year a top the ACAC regular season leader board with an 18-2 record, earning the conference’s top seed.
At the ACAC Championships – the Cougar women steamrolled the competition, defeating Lakeland, Red Deer and host Medicine Hat College to defend their provincial title for a second consecutive season.
Advancing to the Canadian nationals in Vancouver Island, the Cougar women continued their streak again Bois de Boulange College and once again defeated the Medicine Hat Rattlers on the national stage to set up a rematch of last year’s CCAA title game against the VIU Mariners.
In front of a loud, boisterous home crowd, the Mariners avenged their loss from a season prior, downing the Cougars in four sets – as the Cougs’ ended the year with a silver medal.
The women’s volleyball team will leave the ACAC having won an impressive 14 ACAC tiles and one CCAA national championship during their tenure – their national title coming just a year ago in 2010-11.
After missing the post-season for the first time in what feels like forever last year, the Cougar men’s volleyball team regained their championship form – winning a staggering eighteenth ACAC title.
With a third place finish during the regular season, the Cougar men elevated their game in the most important matches, beating the NAIT Ooks, host Briercrest Clippers, and their biggest ACAC rival, the Red Deer College Kings to hoist the trophy.
Earning a trip to the CCAA national championships in Abbotsford, the men were on the short end of the stick in an epic five set thriller against the host Columbia Bible College Bearcats in the quarter-finals, relegating the Cougs’ to the consolation bracket.
Rallying, like they had all season, the Cougar men put together an amazing three win streak, including two victories in one day, a rarity in college sports, as the team defied the odds to win a CCAA bronze medal.
In addition to their 18 titles, the Cougar men hold the MRU record for most CCAA championships, clocking in with seven national titles won during their time.
It might not have been the ending they were looking for, but for the Cougars men’s hockey team, it was their most prolific regular season to date.
In 28 games this season, the Cougars finished the year with a MRU best 48 points, compiling a 22-2-1-3 record (Win- Loss- OT Loss – Tie) – besting their previous mark of 44 points in a single campaign.
With a bye to the semi-finals, the Cougars looked to be well on their way to second-straight ACAC final, with a 2-0 series lead in a best-of-five game playoff against the NAIT Ooks. The Ooks were able to seize the momentum with a game three win, and never looked back, taking three straight from the Cougars to end Mount Royal’s season in a hurry.
The Cougar men’s program leaves the conference with 12 ACAC titles – last winning in 2010-11.
While the Cougars women’s hockey team faced more adversity this regular season, than a year prior, it was that adversity that lead this team to a fifth and final ACAC banner hanging in the rafters at Flames Community Arenas.
A year after losing just one game in the regular season, the Cougar were dropped in last year’s final series in three straight to the SAIT Trojans.
Fast forward a season and the women’s team were downed in nine games, including two in overtime this season.
Still finishing first in the ACAC, the women cruised through the semi-finals, winning three straight against the Red Deer College Queens, and used their never quit attitude in dispelling of the Grant MacEwan Griffins for one final win etched in the record books.
The Cougar women set the conference on fire during their 11 year history, winning five titles during that time.
We are extremely proud of our storied history and the contributions our coaches, student-athletes and administrators that have all contributed to our success. The spirit of these individuals can be encapsulated by three powerful words — tradition, leadership and commitment.
These three words stand as a testament to the strength, resilience and determination Cougar Athletics stands for and the dedication we have to providing the premier student centered athletics program in Canada as we move forward to an exciting future within the Canada West.
— Kyle Henry, March 22, 2012