For our last print issue of the 2022/23 academic year, we asked five Ubyssey sports writers five questions about the Thunderbirds season.
Sam Laidlaw (SL): men's hockey writer
Lauren Kasowski (LK): women's rugby writer
Bill Huan (BH): sports contributor
Solana Pasqual (SP): men's rugby writer
Miriam Celebiler (MC): sports + rec editor
1. What was the best Thunderbird team of the year?
SL: Women’s volleyball. After a disappointing season last year, the ‘Birds reminded everyone how dominant UBC is in women’s volleyball. The team has taken nine out of the past fifteen national championship titles.
LK: This might be a biased answer, but the women’s rugby team. They dominated the season with a good mix of veteran and rookie players, winning their third consecutive Canada West championship. The team’s only loss was a heartbreaker quarterfinal in the U Sports national tournament, but the fifth-place finish still showed tenacity from the ‘Birds.
BH: Women’s volleyball. Although their regular season wasn’t as dominant as some other Thunderbird teams, it’s hard to argue that there was a sweeter victory than the five-set thriller over rival TWU Spartans to capture the 2023 U Sports women’s volleyball championship.
SP: It’s gotta be the men’s rugby team. They were my introduction to covering sports for The Ubyssey, and watching them dominate the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship was incredible. The sportsmanship and attitude that the boys have is amazing, and it was a pleasure to cover the team throughout the year.
MC: Women’s hockey. The T-Birds set a Canada West record with 24 wins in a single season. The team also went undefeated at home, which is a first in T-Birds women’s hockey program history. The ‘Birds took the Canada West gold and bronze at nationals.
2. Which Thunderbird athlete are we most likely to see in Paris 2024?
SL: Mona Berlitz from women’s basketball competing for Germany. She’s had a great rookie year with the T-Birds, scoring a career-high 23 points in the Canada West quarterfinals against UBCO. I think she has what it takes to play in the Olympics.
LK: Hugh McNeill. The second-year swimmer helped guide the T-Birds to their sixth national title and will be representing Team Canada at the Santiago Pan Am and the World Aquatic Games this year. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say he’ll be named to the Olympic team too.
BH: Brendan Guraliuk for sure since he was at Tokyo 2020. But basically the entire men’s field hockey team since the squad that went to Tokyo was mostly comprised of Thunderbirds.
SP: Michael Dowhaniuk. The men’s volleyball team did well this year, and their outside hitter captain was a force to be reckoned with. With him and some of the boys graduating, it would not surprise me to see some of their faces at the Olympics next year.
MC: Racewalker Olivia Lundman. In her rookie season, she set a Canadian record for the 10,000 metre race walk. Lundman has competed for Team Canada at the U20 level. I could see the UBC alum to successful racewalking Olympian trend continue.
3. If you could have coffee with one T-Bird athlete, who would it be?
SL: Kacey Jost. Maybe she could teach me the rules of volleyball.
LK: Cyle McNabb from the men’s hockey team because his favourite Taylor Swift song is “willow” (thank you, TikTok). I’m more of a “long story short” lover, but we could still bond over the underrated evermore album.
BH: Jessica Urban. I’d like to know how she has time to be a high-level athlete while trying to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity and also philosophize against David Hume at the same time.
SP: Honestly, the entire women’s volleyball team. What a finish to the year.
MC: Sophie Damian from women’s soccer. She seems like a fun time.
4. What was the best T-Birds moment of the year?
SL: Cassidy Rhodes’ game-winning goal in the penultimate game of the Canada West women’s hockey championship.
LK: The women’s volleyball team winning the national title takes the cake. After coming into the tournament as the seventh seed and being down two sets in the final, they rallied for a final set the home crowd won’t forget anytime soon.
BH: Women’s volleyball winning U Sports nationals. They were huge underdogs and upset rivals Trinity Western in front of a sold-out home crowd after five thrilling sets. What more can you ask for?
SP: The women’s volleyball team win- ning the 2023 U Sports national championship.
MC: I have to say the women’s volleyball championship win at home. The energy in the gym was unparalleled. Another fun moment was when Esaie Maurancy won the student section pizza at Courtside.
5. If you could add one sport to the varsity roster, what would it be?
SL: Road hockey. I would dominate.
LK: Tennis. It’s an Olympic sport and we’ve got good facilities for the Thunderbird Sport Clubs, so we might as well just upgrade the team to varsity.
BH: Auto racing because it’s the closest thing to Top Gun and you can blast “Danger Zone” all day.
SP: Gymnastics, hands down.
MC: Wrestling. UBC Wrestling Club coach Nick Ugoalah and president Ali Mohajer have brought UBC to top-level competitions across the country. I think in a couple years, wresting could be a varsity sport again.