Golden Bears and Pandas teams rack up a banner year

Matt Gutsch

The University of Alberta’s athletics program recorded one of its most successful seasons in 2014, winning three CIS national championships as well as 10 Canada West or western regional titles. It marks the first time since 2008 that Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics won more than one CIS championship in a single season, but it continues the Evergreen and Gold’s impressive streak of at least one national championship win every year since 1993—a stretch of 21 straight years.

Winning national championships this season were Pandas rugby, Golden Bears volleyball and Golden Bears hockey. Those same three teams also won Canada West championships, as did Pandas soccer, Golden Bears basketball, and Golden Bears and Pandas wrestling, curling and tennis.

Pandas rugby started the championship ball rolling by capping off their undefeated season with a 29-10 victory over the University of Guelph Gryphons to capture the Monilex Trophy as queens of CIS rugby. Already the most successful team in the history of CIS women’s rugby, the U of A added to its legacy by claiming a record sixth national title. Although the Pandas hadn’t won since 2003, which was the last of their five-in-a-row run, they were dominant throughout the 2013-14 season, defeating every CIS team they faced and outscoring their competition 195-20 in the regular season and 106-10 in the playoffs. Fourth-year Physical Education and Recreation student Chelsea Guthrie was named the national championship MVP, while teammates Sabrina Kelly (Education), Amee Svatos (Physical Education and Recreation), Julia Goss (Arts), Alanna Fittes (Phys Ed and Rec), and Rebecca Fairbairn (Arts) were named championship tournament all-stars.

The Pandas soccer team picked up their eighth Canada West crown in the fall, then followed it up by claiming bronze at the national championship tournament.

In the new year, the Golden Bears curling team won their second consecutive western regional championship banner, and Golden Bears and Pandas wrestling followed suit by winning the men’s and women’s Canada West championship banners. Golden Bears and Pandas curling, as well as Golden Bears wrestling, all went on to finish with silver medals at the CIS national championship tournaments. The U of A tennis program also had a successful 2013-14 campaign, as the Bears and Pandas combined to win the program’s fourth straight western regional title. The tennis teams will play in their national championship in August in Montreal.

After an up-and-down season, by their lofty standards at least, Golden Bears volleyball finished on top when they claimed their seventh Tantramar Trophy in team history, thanks to a masterful 3-0 win over the Western University Mustangs in the CIS gold medal game. The Bears went 15-7 during the regular season and finished third in the Canada West standings, a rarity for the incredibly successful program. However, the Bears peaked at the right moment, sweeping through the Canada West playoffs to win the conference championship, then winning three straight at the national championship to capture the CIS hardware.

Although the Golden Bears basketball program didn’t win the national championship this season, they did win the Canada West championship as well as a CIS bronze medal. The team, ranked third for much of the 2013-14 season, lost in the national championship semifinal to the eventual champions, the Carleton Ravens. The team rebounded in the bronze-medal game and defeated the University of Victoria Vikes to win their second medal in three years at the championship tournament, following a silver showing in 2012.

And of course, the Golden Bears hockey team won their 14th national championship March 23 in Saskatoon.

The Golden Bears and Pandas will honour their best and brightest April 10 at the annual Green and Gold Awards ceremony. Each team will present a student-athlete with the team MVP trophy, and the male and female rookies of the year and athletes of the year will also be crowned.