Grading the Thunderbirds: The 2018/19 second term report card

Summer is here and for some T-Birds, it's time to enjoy the warm weather after a successful year and maybe even a championship banner. For others, this summer will be the time to head back to the drawing board to figure out where it all went wrong.

Second semester is playoff season for almost every varsity team, so it's safe to say that there was no shortage of dramatic comebacks, heartbreaking losses and even a underdog story to rival the likes of Hoosiers or Rocky I.

Men’s Rugby: A-

Men's Rugby finished off their British Columbia Premier League (BCPL) season with a more than respectable 18-5 overall record. Going into the BCPL playoffs riding a four-game win streak, their season was brought to an end once more by close rivals UBC Old Boys Ravens RFC in a close fought 27-22 loss in the BCPL semifinal.

While it means the 'Birds will need to wait till next season to lift the Rounsefell Cup, they did show their grit in a comeback performance in the annual "World Cup" series against the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears, winning the second game 28-24 after falling to the 24-22 Golden Bears in a nail-bitting thriller in in Berkeley. Because the series is decided on total points scored, UBC edged out the Golden Bears by just two points.

Don’t forget to check out centre Ben LeSage and scrum-half Will Percillier this summer, who will be representing Canada at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The men's rugby squad in action on home turf.
The men's rugby squad in action on home turf. Elizabeth Wang

Women’s Basketball: B-

It was a solid season that ended in disappointment for the Women’s Basketball. After posting a 14-6 conference record, they fell 67-64 to the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in the Canada West play in to end their season with a heartbreaking loss.

Luckily, the roster is mostly composed of athletes with second and third year standing, so it’ll likely be another two years of familiar faces at War Memorial --- which is ideal for building team chemistry.

A standout player of the year was forward Keylyn Filewich, who was named second team All-Canadian in her third season with the Thunderbirds.

Women's basketball facing off against the Thompson River University Wolfpack.
Women's basketball facing off against the Thompson River University Wolfpack. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Men’s hockey: B+

It is difficult to grade a team that was as unpredictable as the T-Birds Men’s hockey team was this year. There were games that the team should have won, like this year’s Winter Classic against Calgary. Then there were also games they should have lost such as their ridiculous 4-3 overtime comeback win against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.

Yet when you look at their season in its entirety, UBC still finished with a 14-14 and .500 record in conference play, good for fourth place in Canada West.

Considering that two of their fellow conference opponents, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears, played in this year’s U Sports national championship, and another, the University of Calgary Dinos, were a top ten team nationally, this was the best finish the 'Birds could have expected.

However, losing to Mount Royal University Cougars in the opening round of the playoffs was a surprising disappointment.

With most players eligible to return UBC may have a chance to contend for the Canada West crown going forward. Then again, if this season is any indication of what the future holds for men’s hockey, it might be best to withhold any predictions until after the team hits the ice next fall.

Tyler Sandhu dances for the puck against the University of Calgary Dinos during Winter Classic.
Tyler Sandhu dances for the puck against the University of Calgary Dinos during Winter Classic. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Men's and Women's swimming: A+

It should really come as no surprise that the Thunderbird swim teams are both receiving the highest grade after a season of absolute dominance.

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished the year as Canada West and U Sports national champions, and by considerable margins too. Teams like the University of Calgary Dinos and the Université de Montréal Carabins made valliant attempts for the title but the 'Birds fended off all attempts at their throne.

Aside from the titles, the ’Birds also found ways to improve off their last two championship seasons. The biggest improvement coming in the women’s sprint freestyle events at the U Sports championships where Quincy Brozo and Hoi Lam Karen Tam held their own against star studded lineup which included the likes of Olympic medalist Katherine Savard and former World Record holder Kylie Masse.

This year's MVP has to be Markus Thormeyer on the Men's side and Emily Overholt for the Women's. Thormeyer showed no mercy, winning national titles with times that would place him high in international rankings, let alone the Canadian standings. Overholt proved that she didn't miss a beat, the young Olympic medalist coming back from a lengthy break from the pool to destroy the 800 metre freestyle record with a new time of 8:46.89 and take home four U Sports titles.

The men's team with the U Sports Championship banner at the UBC Aquatics Center.
The men's team with the U Sports Championship banner at the UBC Aquatics Center. Ryan Neale

Women’s volleyball: A+

What more could you ask for in a story line.

UBC women’s volleyball started slowly this season, losing four of their first six games. The team battled hard until the midseason break when they found their stride: rolling over the conference-leading Trinity Western Spartans who were 14-0 at that point.

The ’Birds kept on building confidence as they headed into the Canada West playoffs and did just enough to get a berth at the national tournament in Edmonton as the eighth and final seed. The ’Birds defied all odds and as they went all the way and claimed their 12th national title in program history.

Kiera Van Ryk was the team’s MVP as she took home a plethora of awards that included Canada West Volleyball Player of the Year, U Sports Volleyball Player of the Year and U Sports National MVP, Canada West Female Athlete of the Year and of course the inaugural Lieutenant Governor’s award for 2019 Women’s U Sports Female Athlete of the Year.

Keira Van Ryk and the rest of the squad in action at War Memorial Gym
Keira Van Ryk and the rest of the squad in action at War Memorial Gym Katherine Gao

Men’s basketball: A-

The UBC men’s basketball team outperformed expectations this season, taking a young core of players to the program’s first U Sports Final 8 tournament since they played host in 2015/16. Although the team finished fifth at the tournament , this was a squad that many counted out following the departure of key seniors like Jordan Jensen-Whyte, Connor Morgan and Luka Zaharijevic at the end of last season.

This year marked breakout campaigns for a pair of impressive sophomores that found their way into the starting rotation — Grant Shephard and Mason Bourcier. It was also highlighted by strong homecoming years for transfer veterans Jadon Cohee and Manroop Clair, who transfered from the Southern Utah University and Seattle University respectively.

This year's MVP is Grant Shephard. His consistent dominance was paramount for the success of the team this year — he closed out his regular season with 18 straight double-digit point games, earning him a spot on Canada West’s Second All-Star Team. Shephard was also a monster in the paint: he was fourth in the Canada West in rebounding, and the conference’s most efficient scorer with an astounding 66.7 field goal percentage.

Jadon Cohee in play at the U Sports National Championships in Halifax.
Jadon Cohee in play at the U Sports National Championships in Halifax. Mitchell Ballachay

Men’s volleyball: B-

The men’s volleyball team’s playoff season journey wasn’t as smooth as the fans expected. They entered the Canada West playoff as the eighth seed and were obliterated by the number two Trinity Western University Spartans in their first back-to-back series of the post-season.

Despite the imperfect outcome, the team’s comeback this season was still pretty impressive. Since the start of second term, the squad won nine of ten games in the regular season after going 2-10 in Canada West play in first term.

Though only a freshman, Micheal Dowhaniuk is already one of the most reliable powerhouses on the team. He experienced some ups and downs in terms of his consistency on the court in the beginning of the year, but was able to surmount the struggles and was nominated the Canada West all-rookie and a second team all-star.

The men's team defending in a game against the University of British Columbia-Okanagan Heat
The men's team defending in a game against the University of British Columbia-Okanagan Heat Scott Young

Women’s hockey: B+

The women’s hockey team has been a team of headlines and highlight reels this season.

This year, the ’Birds told a story of a team who showed unshakeable resolve and took on any challengers: whether they were the league’s best scorers or the Athletics department.

Looking at their stat sheet, you’ll find two markers of the ‘Birds unique style: Shots On Goals (SOGs) and penalty minutes high enough to make you feel bad for the sideboards. While entertaining to watch, the lack of reliable offense raises concerns that the team won’t be taking their solid defense and stellar goalie to the national stage before their eligibility is up.

This year's MVP is Tory Micklash. The 'Birds owe their season and it’s best moments to the fast hands of their star goalie who set a UBC record with her 10th shutout this season.

Logan Boyd facing off against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies
Logan Boyd facing off against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Salomon Micko Benrimoh