After their 2-1 win against the University of Victoria Vikes in the U Sport Championships on November 6, the UBC women’s field hockey team successfully captured its sixth straight McRae Cup.
The team now has 18 championship titles and ties with the women’s swim team for the most national championships of all Thunderbirds teams. For UBC head coach Robin D’Abreo — who assumed the position in 2014 — every one of his T-Bird seasons so far has ended in a championship.
“We’re obviously very excited to win and very humbled to win. I think it’s a goal that we commit to every single year,” said D’Abreo.
Going into the playoffs, the ’Birds held a 6-0-2 season record, topping the Canada West division. The team then picked up wins against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and University of Guelph Gryphons, and a tie against Victoria before defeating the Vikes in the gold medal match.
“We prepared really well, but the games were really close and we did have to battle some adversity through the season as well. Some of those ties were hard-fought ties,” said D’Abreo.
On the offence, Stephanie Norlander — a transfer from the University of Iowa — was a main source of firepower for the T-Birds during the season. She recorded a total of six goals — the most of all Canada West players. First-year Margaret Pham also stood out on the offence with four.
In the net, Rowan Harris — the T-Birds’ starting goaltender — was out with an injury for most of the season, which left Gabriella Switzer to fill the position.
“[Switzer] came up immensely big for us through the entire season and especially through championships,” said D’Abreo.
“She stepped up and she knocked it out of the park for us.”
Next year, the ’Birds will be losing four players to graduation — Gabby Jayme, Hannah Haughn, Rachel Donohoe and Caitlin Gordon — whom D’Abreo believes have brought tremendous leadership onto the team.
“I think the key individuals that we will be losing have been a big part of our success on and off the field, and their loss is going to be felt significantly to our team,” said D’Abreo.
Still, with many experienced players set to remain on the team next year, D’Abreo is confident that the ’Birds will continue to produce good results. He also believes that his team will be able to maintain the culture necessary to succeed.
“Our players commit a lot of time and energy every year to doing something special, but the strength is in the culture and the environment that we are able to create,” said D’Abreo.