Student athletes will have the chance to compete for a national title for the first time in two years.
U Sports, the governing body for sports in Canadian universities, announced Wednesday that national championships for wrestling, swimming, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, and track and field will take place this year.
“We are pleased that everyone has come together to find an opportunity to offer U Sports championships in 2022 to our student athletes, teams and fans. We are thankful to the conferences and hosts who have worked with us to find ways to allow U Sports national championships to move forward this winter,” said U Sports interim CEO Dick White in a news release.
The first tournaments are wrestling, swimming and women’s hockey, which begin on March 24. The men’s basketball tournament begins April 1 in Alberta.
Nova Scotia universities are still waiting for their seasons to resume after the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus forced Atlantic University Sport to cancel competition, but the prospect of playing in a national tournament serves as a light at the end of the tunnel.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get out of the AUS, I can’t wait. But having said that, I know it’s going to be a struggle,” said Rick Plato, head coach of the Dalhousie men’s basketball team, which won silver at the last U Sports men’s basketball national championships.
While the announcement brings excitement, Plato does not want to get ahead of himself, as COVID has shown us all that everything can change in an instant.
“Everything right now is tentative, so it wouldn’t be smart on my part to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be playing,’ because it could change,” said Plato.
In the announcement posted on their website, U Sports included a note that tournament dates are subject to change depending on the current state of the pandemic and the participation of conferences.
For now, teams are focusing on getting back to playing and coaches want to make sure that their players stay focused on winning games in order to get to the national championship.
“I’ll feel great if we qualify and get to go. Otherwise, it’s honestly not something that we kind of really talk about much until we take care of our own backyard,” said Chris Larade, head coach of the St. Mary’s women’s hockey team.
The news is especially welcome to athletes who are playing in their final years of eligibility.
“Last season we made it to the national finals so I know selfishly both Alex and I want to end off our Dalhousie careers by returning there,” said Keevan Veinot, fourth-year Dalhousie guard referring to his teammate, fifth-year guard Alex Carson.
“That’s our goal is to win the AUS and get to nationals,” said Carson.