By John DeCoste
It always seems the last week of the old year and the first week of the new lend themselves well to looking back at the highlights of the past 12 months.
There’s no question 2012 was a great year for local sports.
Acadia is as good a place to start as any, given that it was one of the most successful years for varsity sport in recent memory.
The highlight for me, as for most fans, was the men’s and women’s basketball teams winning conference championships at two different venues on the same afternoon.
It was the 17th conference title for the Acadia men since 1961, the most of any AUBC team. For the Axewomen, it was something different. By the time it happened, many people seemed to be aware Acadia women’s basketball hadn’t won a championship of any kind since 1951. In itself, the women’s triumph wasn’t any more newsworthy than that of the men, but their 18-2 regular season record, and the 61 years that had elapsed since the last banner, made the Axewomen victory extra special.
Both teams moved on to compete at their respective nationals – another first – and they competed well, especially the Axemen who shrugged off a quarterfinal meeting with top-seeded Carleton to win two of three games and place fifth overall. The Axewomen, after experiencing a case of first-time jitters’ played well in a loss to Regina, one of the top two teams in the country all season.
The Axewomen marked another first last year when their most valuable player and graduating forward Emma Duinker went on to sign a contract to play professional basketball in Germany – the first-ever Acadia women’s basketball graduate to play professionally.
Among other firsts, at one point in the month of November, Acadia had four varsity teams in their respective CIS Top-10s at the same time.
I would tempted to assign the title “sports accomplishment of the year” to the Axewomen, were it not for the Valley Bulldogs’ bantam football team. Local teams have won provincial and even Maritime championships in the past, but none with the kind of season the bantam Bulldogs forged in 2012. The team went a perfect 10-0 en route to its provincial title, scoring 296 points - an average of nearly 30 points a game - and allowing just 41 points against, 21 of which came in the provincial final against Bedford-Sackville. In three of their games, the bantams held their opponents scoreless and, other than their final game, never allowed the opposition more than six points in any contest.
Football coaches have told me that, in order to win, a team needs to have the edge in two of the three parts of the game: offence, defence and special teams. The bantam Bulldogs regularly dominated all three aspects. Their championship was the ultimate team effort, with contributions from everyone on the roster. I had the opportunity at the bantams’ closing banquet, to view a video of their 2012 season. It was truly impressive.
The Kentville senior Wildcats baseball team also had a solid season, placing first in the regular season and advancing to the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League final for the fourth time in seven years.
There were also individual honours among the university athletes. Andrew Clark, of Acadia’s hockey Axemen, became just the third Acadia hockey player to be chosen CIS Player of the Year. Clark was also a finalist for CIS Student-Athlete of the Year.
Football Axemen quarterback Kyle Graves repeated as AUS Player of the Year for his sport and was a finalist for the Hec Crichton Award for a second straight year.
Axewomen soccer player, and Somerset native, Alana Fairfax won the CIS Student-Athlete Community Service Award for her sport - the second year in a row that particular award went to an Acadia player.
Axemen Sean Stoqua, somewhat of a rarity in this day and age as a two-sport varsity athlete, played on conference championship teams in both basketball and football in the same calendar year. Since arriving at Acadia in September of 2011, Stoqua has yet to play on a varsity team that didn’t win a championship.
There were many other accomplishments in 2012, unfortunately far more than I have time or space to list here. Suffice to say, local athletes’ victories did not go unnoticed.