Brock Sports: a decade of resurgence

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Brock Sports has seen some major changes during the current decade. While some programs have made a name for themselves on the national level, others have continued their presence in rankings over the years.

First off was the Badgers department becoming known as Brock Sports — late in the summer of 2016, Brock Athletics and Recreation got a new name and a new look. “Brock Sports” was deemed to oversee all varsity, club and recreational programming. This meant that all aspects of sports and athletics at Brock (sports camps, varsity teams, club teams, Brock Sports Performance Centre and everything in between) merged to be run under the same roof.

Neil Lumsden, who retired this January, was brought on as athletic director in February of 2016. In almost three full years at the helm of Brock Sports, Lumsden made many changes, and sometimes second changes, that have so far worked out quite well for a number of programs. Programs that made coaching changes during Lumsden’s tenure included men’s basketball, women’s basketball (twice), men’s hockey, women’s hockey, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and more.

Another big move for Brock Sports came in the summer of 2016 when Steve Lidstone was hired to run the brand new Brock Sports Performance Centre. Lidstone has since hired two additional sports performance coaches (Dave Scott-McDowell and Vicki Bendus) to work with the Badger varsity teams. Along with a number of student interns, the Sports Performance program at Brock was one of the last key aspects of university athletics that Brock needed to fulfill.

Alumni Field was ready for games in the fall of 2015. The field has lines for lacrosse, soccer and rugby, and has become a fixture of homecoming weekends at Brock as well as providing a great environment for fans who attend Brock fall sports games.

The Steel Blade Classic has been hosted at the Meridian Centre for the past few years, the annual exhibition game used to a weekend tournament played at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre. Brock’s attendance and downtown presence prior to the game the past three seasons has been stellar, making it one of the best events of homecoming weekend. With the single game now being played on the Friday night of homecoming and downtown, it is much easier for students, faculty, and alumni to fill the rink and get to the rink (as opposed to a much more challenging bus travel to Seymour-Hannah).

The Badgers men’s hockey team last made the national tournament in 2007-08 before making the tournament during the 2017-18 season last year under then-first year head coach Marty Williamson. Murray Nystrom had been at the helm of the men’s hockey team, though, during the 2008-09 season, the Badgers returned with a 9-14-5 record. This time around, the Badgers came back after making nationals and set a program record for wins in a season (19) and points in the OUA West division (42). The Badgers home games this year also routinely featured NHL scouts in the standings. It’s safe to say that this decade has brought a fresh rebuild of Brock men’s hockey, one that will continue to make a push in the postseason year in and year out.

Brock men’s basketball was in the same boat, making an appearance at the national tournament during the 2007-08 season, and finally making their return 10 years later in 2017-18. Charles Kissi took the helm of Brock men’s basketball prior to the 2013-14 season after Brad Rootes stepped down. This past season, Brock was led by Madhav Trivedi after it was announced that Kissi would take a leave of absence for one year to take on an assistant coaching role with the Raptors 905 (Toronto Raptors G-League affiliate).

Brock women’s basketball started the decade with a new coach. On March 3, 2010, Si Khounviseth was introduced as the new leader for their team. The Badgers went 12-14 this season and made a return to the playoffs and won a playoff game for the first time since the 2012 season. This past summer, former head coach Ashley MacSporran was removed from her position after a 6-24 season in 2017-18, and a 14-14 2016-17 season. Mike Rao was tabbed as the interim head coach, and led the Badgers to an impressive finish, nearly knocking off the national champion McMaster Marauders in the second round of playoffs.

Brock men’s volleyball wasn’t around at the beginning of this century, nor were they around at the start of the decade either. In 2016, that all changed. Men’s volleyball returned to Bob Davis Gymnasium in October of 2016 for the first time in 15 years under new head coach Doug Hanes. In their three seasons to date, the Badgers have won 23 games and lost 47. This season, the Badgers took home multiple individual awards (Logan House — first team OUA All-Star, Marcelo Correa and Peter Schnabel — second team OUA All-Stars, Ethan Kalef and Mark Naqvi — OUA All-Rookie team).

Women’s volleyball was another Badger team who this past season started to rewrite history, starting with a new head coach in Steve Delaney.

Wrestling is the one sport at Brock that hasn’t changed too much since 2010 — they just keep winning. Marty Calder has been a staple within Brock Sports since he joined the Badger coaching staff in 1994. In the past nine seasons, the Badgers men’s team has captured five national championships, while the women have won seven.

Brock women’s hockey saw multiple coaching changes this decade. Jim Denham took over as interim head coach starting in 2010-11 after serving as an assistant coach the two years prior. During Denham’s first season, the Badgers entered their winter break with a 14-2 record and sitting sixth in the national rankings. Kelly Walker took home OUA Player of the year, Denham wound up winning coach of the year for both the OUA and the (then) CIS. The Badgers opened up the decade with their first ever 20-win season (22-5 record). In 2013, the Badgers partnered with the SCFHA (St. Catharines Female Hockey Association), a girls youth hockey association in the area, which led to their teams adopting a new name, “Brock Jr. Badgers” and sporting the Badger logo and colours. In 2016, the Badgers recruited former Canadian U18 national team member Annie Berg to commit to her hometown university.

In May of 2015, Margot Page and Sara Bauer took over the coaching reins of the women’s hockey team. Both had served as assistant coaches to Jim Denham for two seasons prior. In April of 2017, Bauer stepped down as associate head coach to pursue her PhD, and Page has been steering the ship ever since. The Badgers have made the playoffs two seasons in a row, and had a number of weeks in the national rankings in 2017 prior to the winter break. They have been eliminated two years in a row by the Guelph Gryphons, who this year went on to capture the U Sports national championship.

Women’s rugby had a strong season in the fall of 2018, going undefeated in the regular season, winning their OUA quarterfinal match against York, before falling to Guelph in the semifinal. Brock then faced McMaster in the bronze medal game, losing 59-5. Brock also went 5-2 the year prior, starting the season on a four game win streak. Prior to the past two seasons, Brock hadn’t come up with a winning record since the start of the decade.

Men’s lacrosse is another program in strong standing. Unfortunately, the Badgers haven’t captured the Baggataway Cup since 2009 — but have made the finals the past two years in a row, dropping both games to the Western Mustangs.

Women’s soccer made a return to the playoffs this past season under new head coach Kevin Threthowan. The Badgers hadn’t made the playoffs during the decade until Trethowan came aboard.

Baseball has experienced plenty of success in recent years. Pitcher Chase Porter was named OUA Pitcher of the year this past season. The Badgers have won 206 games since the 2010-11 season (including exhibition/non-league play). Brock finished first place in 2014, 2015 and 2017 in the OUA, and won the OUA championship in 2010 and 2014.

Curling has had a strong rise on the back end of this decade, earning OUA medals and U Sports medals across both programs. Men’s curling won the OUA championship in the 2017-18 season, and silver at OUA’s this past season. The women’s team captured silver at the OUA championships this past season and captured a bronze medal at the U Sports championships.

The one thing that no one can deny is looking at the Badgers now, and comparing where they were in 2010, or even 2012, or 2015, they have taken huge strides in being recognized as a strong sports school in Ontario.

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