By Ilyas Hussein
A few weeks ago the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold had one of its darkest days in sports history. On Feb. 25, 2023, five out of the six varsity teams that play during the winter semester were eliminated in their respective playoff matches with the only other one—men’s hockey—being eliminated the week prior.
Following the sporting season’s sudden end on the chilly winter night, the teams began to set their sights on the fall. The coming year holds a lot of interesting narratives for the Bold as they are set to host the 2024 U Sports men’s hockey nationals and have a number of young teams looking to take it to the next level.
Here are five of the biggest storylines heading into the 2023-24 year.
A return to the Promised Land for men’s soccer?
With the soccer season taking place so early on in the school year, some may have forgotten the amount of success the men’s team had. An Ontario University Athletics (OUA) silver medal and a fifth-place finish at nationals to boot made them the most accomplished program at the university this season—even winning The Eyeopener’s 2022-23 Team of the Year award.
Yet, with eight graduates and the potential loss of second-year forward Ameer Kinani to the Canadian Premier League’s (CPL) Vancouver FC, the squad will feature a different look next season. Head coach Filip Prostran will look toward his remaining players and potential recruits on both sides of the pitch to achieve similar results. One of those will be second-year winger Justin Santos who had 13 goal contributions across 15 games played this season.
With a large number of recruits on the way, the push for nationals once again looms large and it will be intriguing to see if they can return to the prized tournament for the second straight year.
The women’s basketball team’s roster rotations
Women’s basketball head coach Carly Clarke has a tough task ahead of her next year.
With the emergence of third-year guard Kaillie Hall playing the point guard position after first-year Kait Nichols went down with a knee injury during the holiday break, the long-tenured bench boss will have to figure out the team’s rotation.
“I thought Kaillie was outstanding…playing a position she hasn’t normally played,” said Clarke of Hall following their Jan. 4 win over the Guelph Gryphons who were nationally ranked at the time.
As Nichols is set to return to the lineup, Clarke will have to decide who will be her everyday point guard. In the end, it’s a good problem to have as Hall and Nichols have both shown, to varying degrees of success, that they’re capable of being the floor general. The loss of graduates Eve Uwayesu and Tiya Misir also opens the door for more minutes and could result in Hall and Nichols sharing the boatload of playing time.
This year also marked the end of the road for fourth-year forward Rachel Farwell. The departure of the Rothesay, N.B., product—the last remaining starter from the 2022 national championship-winning side—will be a tough void to fill. Second-year forward Haley Fedick will likely be thrust into a larger role with Farwell’s minutes up for grabs but the depth at the wing will need to be assessed through new recruits heading into next fall.
Young volleyball squads primed for development
For the men’s volleyball team, the loss of long-tenured fourth-year Lhexen Rabit is significant. The libero featured in every match for the blue and gold this season and finished third in the OUA in average digs-per-set. He’ll be departing alongside fourth-year setter Saad Shaikh and fourth-year outside hitter Omari Young, who both played prominent roles for the Bold throughout the year.
This leaves the program—one that hasn’t made it past the Forsyth Cup quarter-finals since 2017—in the hands of an extremely young team as only one player, Alex King, is set to enter their graduating year. King and second-year outside hitter Jacob Walker will likely take the mantle as the most crucial factors for the squad next year as they were both named as OUA first-team all-stars.
Their counterparts on the women’s volleyball team find themselves in a similar situation. The exit of their five graduating seniors—Julie Moore, Bethany Smith, Alicia Lam, Katelyn Grasman and Jyoti Ruparell—is poised to make an already young squad more youthful.
Moore was named as an OUA first-team all-star and replacing her hitting from within could prove to be a difficult task, even with third-year Ashley Ditchfield and second-year Scarlett Gingera hoping to take another step forward in their development.
Meanwhile, they have a prepared setter waiting in the wings of Lam. Second-year Sarah Zonneveld split the role of the team’s starting setter with the former national champion this year and will most likely play a key role in the coming year.
The blue and gold also have one of the top liberos in the province with second-year Mary Rioflorido, who was among the top in the majority of the libero statistics this past season and was named to the OUA second-team.
Both budding cores will look to blossom in the 2023-24 season, so keep an eye out for them as they look to return to volleyball royalty.
Can the men’s basketball team continue building toward success?
For a university once known for its men’s basketball prowess in the 2010s, the program has yet to make it past the Wilson Cup quarter-finals in the 2020s.
However, the squad has hopes to return to the semi-finals and beyond.
After narrowly bowing out to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, the promise of the year to come has restored faith in the program.
“Plenty of learning experiences, we’re going to be right back here in the same situation next season,” head coach Dave DeAveiro told The Eye after their defeat to the eventual OUA champions.
This season’s addition of third-year guard David Walker to an already talented and deep squad, featuring the likes of 2021-22 U Sports Rookie of the Year Aaron Rhooms, has made this team an even more dangerous threat.
Fortunately for DeAveiro, most of his key players will be returning next season and it seems as if one more pivotal addition to the roster could push them over the edge.
Regardless if they do add one or not, it will be captivating to see if they can continue to build on this progress as DeAveiro finally has a grasp on what the makeup of his team actually is.
Men’s hockey team seeks redemption with nationals at TMU
This list would not be complete without the story of the men’s hockey team hosting the national championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) next season.
Their 2022-23 season was described by head coach Johnny Duco as “a tale of two hockey teams,” following their exit to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the first round of the Queen’s Cup playoffs.
The Bold won 11 of their first 16 games and were consistently nationally ranked during the fall semester but lost six of their last eight to finish fourth in the OUA West Division.
They were without star second-year forward Kyle Bollers after he attended the 2023 FISU Winter Universiade and came back from the tournament with a shoulder injury—keeping him out for the year.
Star first-year netminder Kai Edmonds also missed time as he represented Team Canada at the 2023 FISU Winter Universiade as well.
If those two are both back in the fold for next season and the recruiting class is encouraging, then the Bold’s men’s hockey team stock will immediately rise.
They’ll look to redeem themselves from a disappointing end to what seemed to be a promising season as they have secured an automatic berth to next year’s nationals as the host. Although the team was awarded The Eye’s 2022-23 Storyline of the Year award, they might already have a case to go back-to-back with the tournament marked on the calendar.