Grading the Thunderbirds: The 2017/18 first term report card

The fall term had its triumphs and its challenges for the ’Birds, culminating in some ecstatic and heartbreaking playoff runs for several of the teams. Others are still questing for league supremacy.

Either way, here’s all you need to know about this fall for the varsity teams and how they’ve performed.

Fall term final report cards

Women’s field hockey: A+

The women’s field hockey team didn’t just do well this year, they absolutely dominated on the way to capturing an unfathomable seventh straight U Sports national championship. Of all their many championship seasons, this one goes down in the history books as one of, if not the best in the program’s history. The ’Birds went 9-0-1, their best record yet, with the only tie coming in the season opener against their arch-rival the University of Victoria Vikes. The undefeated streak means that the team hasn’t lost a game in regular season or playoff action since November 5, 2015 against the Guelph University Gryphons in the 2015/16 national championships.

The ’Birds also kept a perfect record at home, finishing with a 6-0-0 record. This includes the two games played against the York University Lions in the U Sports championships held on campus in early November. The ’Birds cruised to the championship with two 2-0 shutout victories backstopped by veteran keeper and U Sports player of the year Rowan Harris.

MVP: Goalie Rowan Harris. She posted an incredible amount of shutouts this season, and was deservingly named Canada West player and goalie of the year, and U Sports player of the year.

Women's field hockey celebrate their U Sports title win.
Women's field hockey celebrate their U Sports title win. File Patrick Gillin

Football: A-

The ’Birds might have had an early exit from the playoffs, but with the heavyweight Calgary Dinos in the way, getting far in the playoffs was a long shot. Still, the ’Birds had a strong season — finishing 6-2 before heading to the postseason.

MVP: Trivel Pinto has been receiving passes from quarterback Michael O’Connor for three seasons and this year was his best to date. With an average of 98.4 receiving yards per game, Pinto was one of O’Connor’s go-to receivers for passing plays. With two more years of eligibility remaining, he has many more chances to become a force to be reckoned with.

Biggest surprise: Elliot Graham. The freshmen players aren’t typically the ones that set school records, but during the home opener Graham — a freshman linebacker — put his name in the books with a 107-yard interception return for a touchdown — UBC’s longest ever. Graham’s 41 tackles during the season was also one of the highest on UBC’s defensive line.

Michael O'Connor sends the ball downfield.
Michael O'Connor sends the ball downfield. File Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Men’s soccer: B+

The men put in a valiant effort this season, ending with a record of 10-4-1 which placed them in the top spot going into the Canada West playoffs. The regular season itself had its ups and downs — two 5-0 wins against MacEwan and Victoria were the highlights, but the team fell flat against much weaker teams like UNBC. Even so, the ’Birds would go on to win the Canada West title and secure a spot at the national tournament. Once there, the Thunderbirds would win their first game to qualify for the semifinals, but faced a 2-0 upset loss in the next match against the Montreal Carabins which placed them in the bronze medal game against Thompson Rivers University, which they would lose in a shootout.

Though they had a rollercoaster of a season, the Thunderbirds looked like a strong competitor for the U Sports gold medal throughout the fall term. It was not the ending they hoped for, but as one of the youngest squads head coach Mike Mosher has ever managed, they definitely have the potential to go all the way next year.

MVP: Rookie striker Victory Shumbusho scored nine goals this season with 32 shots. Bear in mind, the forward only played in 16 of the ’Birds 21 games this year. Shumbusho even broke into the scoring race in Canada West, in a tie for second place.

Men's soccer celebrate their Canada West title.
Men's soccer celebrate their Canada West title. File Patrick Gillin

Women’s soccer: B

Finishing with a bronze in Canada West is a considerable success by most standards. But for the UBC women’s soccer team — who have gone to two straight U Sport national finals — it felt like a step back. With a 9-2-3 conference record, the ’Birds clinched an early playoff spot and were poised to re-enter the nationals with much fanfare. Then, their season ended as they fell in the Canada West semi-finals to the Trinity Western University Spartans. Still, the T-Birds showed up at crucial moments in their season, won many games decisively and repeatedly corrected our expectations.

MVPs: Jasmin Dhanda and Aman Shergill. The team’s offensive veterans gave some much needed support and firepower for the team that sometimes struggled to find their spark. Dhanda not only led the country with her 14 goals this season but also broke the all-time Canada West scoring record and was named the U Sport women’s soccer player of the year. Shergill held the top spot in the country in assists. Both also scored the most game-winning goals for the ‘Birds.

The T-Birds come together after a goal.
The T-Birds come together after a goal. File Zach Kourgialis

Women’s rugby: C+

The women’s rugby team had an underwhelming season — going 1-5 in Canada West — but they qualified for the Canada West playoffs in Calgary. Though they lost the match 27-22, a bonus point for losing by less than seven points sent them in to playoffs. Unfortunately for the team, they faced the powerhouse Dinos once again in the first game and simply looked overwhelmed. That said, the women's rugby team never gave up in any game, no matter the score. Another positive? Every single person on the roster is eligible to return next season, so this young 'Birds team should have a bright future ahead of them.

Memorable moment: In their season opener, the T-Birds made history with their first ever win against the University of Alberta Pandas — it took them 19 matchups in their history to do it. Final score in the game was 29-19, though

The Calgary Dinos squander a UBC attack.
The Calgary Dinos squander a UBC attack. Patrick Gillin

Mid-term report cards

Cross country: A+

UBC’s cross country roster packs a heavy punch. This was made clear at the NAIA championships as both the men’s and women’s teams claimed their respective titles. For the men’s team, it is a return to glory after a confusing third place finish last year. For the women’s team, this is their fifth national title in six years.

MVPs: John Gay, Nicole Lacis and Jesse Hooton. “Our seniors did a great job of keeping the squad focused but relaxed. Leadership from Nicole Lacis, John Gay and Jesse Hooton proved invaluable,” said UBC head coach Laurier Primeau of the NAIA meet.

Swimming: A+

So far, UBC swimming has gone three for three in meets, on both the men's and women's side. Boasting a roster with Olympic talent, it should come as no surprise that they’ve dominate most individual and relay events. This is a very fun and impressive team to watch as the season goes on; for now, it’s hard to give this team anything lower than perfect.

MVP: Yuri Kisil. In the Canada West championships, he won the 50 metre freestyle with a blistering time of 21.78 and took home the 100 metre freestyle with a time of 47.31 — he holds the fastest time in Canada in both events.

It's been another dominating season so far for the swim team.
It's been another dominating season so far for the swim team. File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Men’s rugby: A

Despite two loses to start the season, the ’Birds have not lost a game since and are on track to what could be a fourth consecutive Rounsefell Cup victory. Most recently, the ’Birds won the inaugural Canadian University Men’s National Championship. With a win against Victoria in September, UBC has also not lost a game of the Wightman Boot since 2013.

MVP: Theo Sauder has been taking care of business for the T-Birds this entire season. He led all players in points with 41 at the Canadian University Men’s National Championship.

Biggest surprise: Nick Allen was not a particularly prominent scorer last season, but this year he has scored multiple tries, including at least one in each of the ’Birds’ games during the championship.

Men’s volleyball: A

The men’s volleyball team started their season amazingly well with a 9-1 record in Canada West — their only loss came at the hands of the University of Alberta Golden Bears. They also have three straight set wins in regular season. The usual suspects for the ’Birds continue to impress points-wise, with team captain Irvan Brar ranking amongst the top six athletes in the nation in kills, kills per set, hitting percentage and service aces per set. Byron Keturakis is also averaging 9.95 assists per set, second best in the nation.

Biggest surprises: New additions Fynn McCarthy and Coltyn Liu have shown their worth amongst the elite UBC roster, earning 30 and 24 kills respectively so far this season.

Matt Guidi sets up the ball for Joel Regehr.
Matt Guidi sets up the ball for Joel Regehr. File Elizabeth Wang

Golf: A-

The men’s team has had excellent results this fall, closing out the first leg of their tournament season in October. Through the first five tournaments, the men have captured first-place, second-place and third-place finishes at the Concordia Invitational, Western Washington Invitational and Victoria Vikes Shootout, respectively. The women’s team also captured a second-place finish at the Western Washington Invitational, alongside a first place finish at the Saint Martin's Invitational. Overall, both teams’ results so far this season are a terrific follow-up to last year’s excellent season.

MVPs: Undoubtedly Avril Li, who secured a tournament-best score of 152 to help the UBC women’s team capture a first-place team finish at the Saint Martin’s Invitational. She also held the best individual performance on her team at the Seattle U Invitational (5th) and the WSU Cougar Cup (12th).

On the men's side, Andrew Harrison captured the best solo performance of the season by a member of the men’s team – securing first place in the Saint Martin’s Invitational in September.

Harrison has been a highlight for the men's golf team this season.
Harrison has been a highlight for the men's golf team this season. Courtesy Rod Commons/Washington State University

Rowing: A-

The rowing teams have been enjoying some major successes recently. The men’s team took home gold at the Western Canadian University Rowing Championships (WCURC) on October 28, which also saw the women’s team earning a second-place finish behind the University of Victoria (UVic) Vikes. The men dominated, finishing with 190.5 points overall, miles ahead of second place University of Alberta’s 60 points. They won the majority of their races, including the men’s 4+ and 8+. The men’s junior varsity squad also performed well, winning their 8+ event. On the women’s side, the team won four events throughout the day, and finished second in the women’s 8+ behind UVic. This was good for second overall, 10.5 points back of the Vikes.

Both T-Birds teams also competed in the Canadian University Rowing Championships on November 4 and 5. The men’s team took home gold, finishing six points ahead of the Vikings. This was their second win in as many years, and their third in the past four. The women’s team medalled as well, coming in third place, just four points behind second place Victoria and eight behind gold medal winners Western University. The men’s team again won the 8+, while the women came second in their 8+, finishing seven seconds behind first place Victoria.

MVP: Aaron Lattimer, who competed in a number of events for Thunderbirds, was deservedly named male athlete of the year for his efforts.

Women’s volleyball: A-

The women’s volleyball team is starting off their season with a strong record of eight wins and two losses. The team lacked momentum at the beginning of the year due to injury absences of key players, particularly through the West Coast Classic where they lost all three games, but have massively picked up their pace in their regular season with seven wins in their last eight games.

The team currently sits tied for first in Canada West alongside UBC Okanagan (UBCO) and the University of Calgary. Fun fact: UBC has played both Calgary and UBC Okanagan this season, only losing to UBCO once of those four top-of-table battles. They even swept Calgary 3-0 in one of their two matchups.

MVP (Most Valuable Pairing): Rookie outside hitter Kiera Van Ryk and setter Olivia Furlan have been a pairing to watch, working well together off the attack line to put up some big points for the ’Birds.

UBC's Anna Price sends the ball careening towards TRU's defensive wall.
UBC's Anna Price sends the ball careening towards TRU's defensive wall. File Elizabeth Wang

Women’s hockey: B+

The women were off to a shaky start during the preseason, but once the regular season came, the team seems to have returned to normal with a respectable 9-5 record. This season may not be as impressive as the last one, but with many of last year’s seniors having left, the team does seem to be adjusting reasonably well.

Best player: Tory Micklash. Thanks to solid goaltending, the ’Birds have one of the fewest goals against of all teams in the Canada West conference this season. With the exception of two games, the ’Birds have given up no more than two goals per game. With a save percentage of .94, Micklash has been an important part in keeping UBC’s opponents in check.

Biggest surprise: Hannah Clayton-Carroll. Last season, Clayton-Carroll had only six goals by the end of the regular season. So far this year, she has scored seven, making her UBC’s leading scorer.

Brielle Bellerive looks on at the game with her UBC women's hockey teammate oct 28
Brielle Bellerive looks on at the game with her UBC women's hockey teammate oct 28 File Saman Shariati

Men’s basketball: B+

With plenty of new faces entering the fray, the men’s basketball team has looked to develop chemistry during the first half of the season. The ’Birds have acclimatized seamlessly on offense, boasting the highest-scoring output in Canada West en route to a 8-2 record.

However, as young teams are prone to do, their play on the defensive end of the floor has been far less vaunted. Two early season losses to their Calgary rivals served as a tough wake-up call, but the ’Birds have responded in impressive fashion, rattling off four consecutive victories.

MVP: Fifth-year guard Phil Jalalpoor’s play has been eye-catching. Jalalpoor has led the ’Birds on both ends of the floor, eclipsing the twenty point mark on four occasions while leading the team in steals. By being positioned off the ball more, Jalalpoor has emerged as the ’Birds strongest scoring threat. His 41-point performance, with eleven three pointers, in preseason was electrifying.

Conor Morgan fights his way to the basket.
Conor Morgan fights his way to the basket. File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Men’s field hockey: B

Though the ’Birds had some blowout wins right out of the gate this season – an 8-2 over the Vancouver Rowing Club Jokers and 6-3 over India FHC – they’ve struggled against some of the tougher opponents so far this year. That said, their penalty corner has been on fire, with the ball finding the net several times this season.

MVP: Captain Gordon Johnston has played a key role in keeping the team on task and on the attack, not only holding the back line together in central defence but building up the attack from the back line. His presence is felt across the pitch, and he has been the one in charge of finishing most penalty corners for the T-Birds so far this season.

UBC makes a break into West Vancouver's end of the pitch.
UBC makes a break into West Vancouver's end of the pitch. File Annie Reuter

Women’s basketball: C+

They are a considerably young team — their most senior players are in their third year of eligibility — and are doing quite well despite these odds. Many of their players lead the league in points. They have a 4-6 conference record, which puts them in the middle of the Canada West standings and in reach of the playoffs. It’s too early to call though — they could correct this record or slide down the ladder.

MVPs: Keylyn Filewich, Maddison Penn and Jessica Hanson. The Filewich-Penn-Hanson trifecta forms the team’s offensive backbone and leads the league in scoring with 149, 199 and 123 points, respectively. Filewich is lethal in the key and both Penn and Hanson are dangerous from outside of it.

Biggest surprise: Marcie Schlick. The second-year forward holds it down defensively, leading the team with blocks and is right behind Penn and Filewich in defensive rebounds at 5.9 per game.

Men’s hockey: C

The men’s performance has been mixed this season and it reflects in their 5-8-1 record. After dropping four of their first five, they pulled together a four-game winning streak – but those games came against bottom feeders like Regina and Lethbridge. Although they’ve had promising moments backed by solid goaltending, they haven’t been able to pull it together against strong teams within the conference — including a rough sweep on their home-opening weekend that saw them outscored 13-1 by the Calgary Dinos.

Most recently, they were swept on the road in Alberta, and have fallen to the lower end of the pack in the standings. Over the first third of the season, they have given up the most power play opportunities of any team and hold Canada West’s second worst penalty kill.

MVP: Austin Vetterl leads the team in scoring at well over a point-per-game pace. He has also been a special teams powerhouse, holding second in the league in power play (4) goals and tied for first in shorthanded (1) goals.