Highlights/lowlights for SFU sports in 2018

What was your favourite SFU sports moment from last year?

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Jenna-lee Baxter becoming SFU women's soccer first ever NCAA DIV II All-American was one of the highlights of 2018 for SFU sports. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

From SFU men’s soccer’s unbelievable start to the 2018 season to SFU hockey missing out on the playoffs due to an ineligible player ruling, there were a lot of highs and lows for SFU sports last year. We reviewed last year’s sports events and picked out our favourite and least favourite moments that 2018 had to offer. Without further ado, here are the highs and lows for SFU sports in 2018.

Highlights:

Thomas Ford hired as new head coach for SFU Football

In January of 2018, SFU Athletics decided to name Thomas Ford their new head coach for the SFU football program after letting previous head coach Kelly Bates’ contract expire. Obviously, Ford was stepping into a tough job: the Clan hadn’t even won a game in the previous three seasons. While Ford was not the Canadian hire that some may have hoped for, after speaking with him on his goals for the program, and seeing the recruits that he’s brought in already, we believe this will be looked back on as the first step in rebuilding the football team.

N’Kosi Kedar Salam averaged 20.4 points per game in the 2017-2018 season. Kelsey Nikl / The Peak

N’Kosi Kedar Salam leads GNAC in scoring

While the SFU men’s basketball team looks to improve on a somewhat disappointing 2017–18 season this campaign, they will have to do so without N’Kosi Kedar Salam, who has now moved on to play professional basketball in Europe. Before finishing his SFU basketball career, however, Salam led the GNAC in points per game, ending the 2017–18 season averaging 20.4. His scoring was crucial to the team’s success, and he regularly took over games for the Clan. For these efforts, he was named to the GNAC All-First team, becoming the first SFU basketball athlete to receive this honour.

SFU men’s golf win GNAC title

Back in April, we got one of the best team performances of the year from the SFU men’s golf team at the GNAC Championships. All four of the team’s scoring players finished in the top five at the tournament, allowing the team to cruise to its second GNAC title in program history. The Clan won the tournament by nine strokes, highlighted by shooting seven under par in the first round of play. The only non-positive of the tournament was SFU’s Craig Titterington losing to Western Washington’s Ethan Casto in a playoff for an individual medal. Nonetheless, the SFU golf team’s performance at this tournament was a highlight for 2018.

14 All-American Performances by SFU Swim at National Championships

The SFU Swim team put together quite the impressive performance at the NCAA Championships in March of 2018. Andrew Woinoski, MacKenzie Hamill, Rolando Hernandez, Jessie Gibson, Kaleigh Sharkey, Erin Lawrance, and Kristen Olvet all finished with All-American performances, getting the Clan’s tally up to 14, and also broke a few previous SFU records in the process. The men’s team finished 18 in the nation while the women’s team placed 14.

SFU football win first game in years

After nearly four years, and 33 straight losses, the Clan finally got a win in 2018! It happened in Thomas Ford’s first game at the helm, in front of 1,265 fans at Terry Fox Field. What was most impressive was the dominating way in which it happened, as they team destroyed Willamette University 54–7. There is a pretty big asterisk on the win, though, since Willamette University is actually a DIV III school, but honestly, after so long, we’re happy to cheer for anything when it comes to SFU football.

SFU Sports Analytics Club hosts second successful VanSash event

In September of 2018, the SFU Sports Analytics Club hosted the Vancouver Symposium and Hackathon event at the SFU Harbour Centre. The event allowed for students to use their skills to transform real sports data into a meaningful project to present to judges from the Vancouver Whitecaps and other organizations. The event’s goal was for these students to be able to connect with the sports analytics industry, and compete with other teams to use the data provided in applicable ways. The event sold out, with roughly 100 students participating and over 20 judges and mentors attending the event.  

SFU men’s soccer kicked off 2018 with 16 straight wins. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

Men’s soccer unbeaten streak to start season

Of all the great team performances we saw from SFU in 2018, this SFU men’s soccer team may have been the most impressive. The team started off the 2018 season with 16 straight wins, going undefeated until after they had already clinched the GNAC championship. Over this period, the Clan got to being ranked #1 in the entire NCAA DIV II, and for good reason. They outscored their opponents 58–5 over this two-month stretch, and consistently looked dominant. By the end of the season, the Clan had four players on NCAA All-American teams, the top mark in the NCAA DIV II.

Jenna-lee Baxter’s 2018 GNAC season

If you watched the women’s soccer team play in 2018, there is no way you could’ve missed Jenna-lee Baxter. She was involved in everything the Clan did, and was a huge reason that the team led the GNAC in goals per game this season. She finished the year tied for the conference lead in goals (11) and assists (10), while leading the conference in total points. For her efforts, she was named a NCAA All-American, becoming the first SFU women’s soccer athlete to do so. What a way to wrap up her SFU career.

Both men and women’s cross country teams qualify for nationals

For the first time since 2014, both SFU cross country teams qualified for the national tournament in dramatic fashion. Fighting harsh weather conditions, including snow, both teams finished second at the West Regional Championships. Pierre-Louis Detourbe, Sean Miller, and Rowan Doherty led the way on the men’s side, while Olivia Willet, Sophia Kaiser, and Addy Townsend led the way for the women. After the race head coach Brit Townsend told The Peak: “It does feel like a best ever season, overall, at least since we’ve been in the NCAA.”

Men’s basketball host first ever SFU Showdown

At the beginning of the 2018–19 men’s basketball campaign, the team hosted the first ever SFU Showdown tournament on Burnaby Mountain. The first game of the tournament was fantastic, as it went down to the final few minutes where a three-pointer from Michael Balata had the crowd roaring. The Clan also won their second game of the tournament against Minnesota State University, getting them off to a 2–0 start on the season. Overall, the tournament was a great success, with three NCAA DIV II teams from the states coming up to compete in Canada, and hopefully is a sign for things to come for SFU basketball.

Lowlights:

SFU hockey season ends early due to ineligible player ruling

In March of 2018, it was announced that SFU would miss the BCIHL playoffs for the first time in team history after an ineligible player ruling forced the team to forfeit 11 games. The ruling stated that the player in question was deemed to be academically ineligible after failing to meet the BCIHL minimum academic standards in the fall semester, and more importantly, failing to let the team know. This mix-up ultimately cost the SFU hockey team a chance at a BCIHL hockey championship, and it was a horrible way to end an otherwise very successful 2017–18 season.

Kyle Jones misses men’s soccer season due to injury

Injuries are probably the worst thing in sports, and in 2018, a very unfortunate one took away the 2018 season for SFU midfielder Kyle Jones. After a successful 2017 season which saw Jones contribute heavily to a SFU GNAC title, Jones played in the Professional Development League in the offseason, where he tore his ACL. The 2018 season would’ve been his last season of eligibility for SFU, and he would’ve been an integral part of the team’s GNAC title run and playoff aspirations. We wish Jones the best on healing up for 2019.

SFU football will be looking forward to 2019 for their first GNAC win in years. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

SFU football fail to win a GNAC game again

While SFU football may have snapped a 33-game losing streak in 2018, they once again failed to win any games that actually mattered. On two occasions this season, however, they came close. Both times were against Humboldt State University, and both times the team fell by one possession, 16–23. Interestingly enough, Humboldt’s only two wins of the season came against SFU. While we are excited by SFU football’s new recruits and a program turnaround will still take some time, it would’ve been encouraging to see at least one GNAC win in 2018.

Men’s soccer shocked by Cal Poly Pomona for third straight year

Despite all the incredible feats that SFU men’s soccer accomplished in 2018, they still could not get past their arch-rivals Cal Poly Pomona in the West Regional Championships. The loss prevented SFU from advancing to the national tournament, where they would have certainly been contenders to take home the championship. Not only that, but the way it happened was heartbreaking, as Cal Poly capitalized on their only shot on target in the entire game to win the match 1–0 in the first overtime period. Whether you want to blame the loss on the Clan not being able to host the game at home, or just general bad luck, one thing is for sure: this was one of the lowlights for SFU sports this past year.