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This weekend saw a lot of action for the Thunderwolves Athletics pack, with a number of OUA regular season openers. Most of our Wolves were in Hamilton, Ontario being hosted by McMaster, with the exceptions of our cross country squad who were representing the Thunderwolves pack at the OUA championships in London, and the men’s hockey and women’s volleyball teams, who defended our territory here in Thunder Bay.
At home facing the York Lions in Fort William Gardens, Thunderwolves men’s hockey dropped two to the visitors before pulling out an overtime win, finishing the weekend 1-2.
“I thought we got progressively better this weekend,” Thunderwolves head coach Andrew Wilkins said. “The first two nights didn’t see the results we obviously wanted, but there were stretches of time where we played good hockey.”
Thursday night’s affair saw the Lions get out to an early lead with two first-period goals, and Lakehead struggled to respond to the deficit. Cole Edwards of the Thunderwolves found the net in the second followed by Colin Van Den Hurk in the third, but the Lions picked up two more goals after each LU score.
Friday’s rematch saw an improved effort from the home team, but York again emerged victorious with a final score of 4-1.
“Our group went through a bit of a learning process over those first two games when it comes to game and puck management,” coach Wilkins said. “We needed to improve in order for us to win.”
And improve they did. The Thunderwolves picked up their first win of the regular season on Saturday night in a thrilling overtime that saw Lakehead’s Ben Badalamenti end the weekend by netting the puck. The final score was 4-3.
“We had a good response on Saturday to get our first OUA win,” Wilkins said. “I was encouraged by the effort from our group over our first three games.”
Lakehead’s Tyler Ho finished the weekend with three points, including two goals, while Cole Edwards, Kyle Auger, Joe Mack, and Spencer Blackwell added two points apiece.
Thunderwolves hockey returns this Thursday, November 11th for another three-game slate in which they’ll host the Ryerson Rams at Fort William Gardens.
The Thunderwolves women’s volleyball team meanwhile had CJ Sanders Fieldhouse rocking in an exciting weekend of back-and-forth play. The visiting McMaster Marauders took both matches in three straight sets, but there were positive signs for the Lakehead squad.
“This weekend I felt we competed really well,” Thunderwolves head coach Brett Hagarty said. “We would’ve liked to win, but it was a good kick off to our regular season.”
McMaster opened the weekend with a scoring run on Friday night led by a pair of hitters in Jessie Nairn and Emma McKinnon, but the Thunderwolves mounted a frantic comeback that forced the Marauders into an early timeout. The visitors attempted to pull away at several points throughout both matches, but the resilient Thunderwolves nipped away each time with howling comebacks.
“We learned a lot as a team,” Hagarty said, “and I think it showed in our play from Friday to Saturday. We have eight athletes who experienced their first official OUA competition, which was both exciting and a major learning opportunity.”
The Thunderwolves were paced by veteran hitter Virginie Franks’ big swings from the outside, Megan “Chewy” Nahachewsky’s dexterous tips and spikes, and middle Milena Ljubicic’s quick actions with setters Hannah Shortreed and Alexis Cancade.
“The exciting part of this season for this team will be the improvement from this opening weekend to February,” coach Hagarty said. “I think we will be a different team come the second half of the season considering how much we have already improved as a team.”
Lakehead’s women’s volleyball team heads to London in three weekends to face the Western Mustangs as part of a long road swing. The Thunderwolves return to the Thunderdome late in January 2022.
Lakehead’s masters of the mat finished their group appearance at McMaster University’s tournament with 19 wins in 30 bouts, the second-highest win percentage of all participating schools.
“Lakehead wrestlers did exceptionally well at the McMaster International,” Thunderwolves wrestling coach Francis Clayton said.
The men’s competitors were led by veteran maestro Abraham Mfonpa’re Ntienjem who took home silver in the 82kg category. Mike Haskel, John Campbell, and Mateo Ainisi all claimed bronzes in their respective weight classes.
The women’s competitors were led by top-of-her-category Madison Clayton, the tournament gold medalist in the 63kg group. Erin Clayton and Nina Zigic also brought home silver medals in their respective weight classes.
“Winning 7 medals in the 8 weight classes entered is a good result,” coach Clayton said. “The work our wrestlers have put in over the past two months is definitely paying off. If they were rusty after not competing since the 2020 USports championship, it didn’t show.”
Lakehead’s runners did were busy setting personal bests down at the 106th OUA championships in London, Ontario. Ten different Thunderwolves achieved best-ever finishes at an OUA championship event in the 8km race.
“As a team, we finished the Cross-Country season off with our best performance yet,” Thunderwolves coach Joe McDonough said. “Almost everyone had their career-best OUA Championship finish.”
The men’s runners were led by 24th-overall Connor MacIntosh’s breakneck 26:17, an average of 3:18 per kilometer. Jett Dobson and Leif Buxton also finished in the top fifty, while Andrew Lehman, Aiden Webster, and Paul Nunez all finished with personal best times at an OUA championship event.
“I was especially proud of our captain, Connor MacIntosh for leading the way for our young guys and setting the tone,” McDonough said. “Connor has improved each season and has been a model of what hard work and consistency can do for an athlete.”
The women’s runners were led by 32nd-overall Paige Kobe’s 31:59, an average of 4:00 per kilometer. Corrina Whybourne also finished in the top fifty at 33:05, and Katherine Lucas and Eve Boardman also recorded personal bests at an OUA championship event.
“Great run from the team in our first OUA Championship back,” McDonough added. “Everyone ran gutsy races and displayed tremendous courage, representing Lakehead proudly. Andrew, Aiden, Paige and Corrina also showed tremendous heart in battling their way to the finish line and leaving it all out there. I’m very proud of this group and eager to see them develop; with a team of mostly first-year runners, the results were great and we’re looking forward to what the next 4+ years can be!”
The women’s basketball team had a tough weekend in Hamilton, coming up winless against the home team Marauders. Final scores were 74-65 on Friday and 63-47 on Saturday.
“We started very well, moving the ball and guarding tough,” Thunderwolves head coach Jon Kreiner said. “Things started to slip away for us when we didn’t move the ball, which lead to poor shots, and our transition defence suffered.”
Sofia Lluch led the way for the Lakehead squad, scoring 26 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and picking up 3 steals across the two games. Ally Burke added 20 combined points, while Eva Guilera finished with 15 total rebounds. Veteran leader Tiffany Reynolds struggled with fouls, picking up 4 each game, but she still finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“With Tiffany getting early foul trouble we didn’t have an answer for Gates tonight,” Kreiner said.
Fourth-year McMaster guard Sarah Gates finished with weekend with 57 combined points, going 19-32 from the floor.
“In general, we shot the ball much better than Mac,” Kreiner said, “but our turnover and rebounding differential hurt us.”
The women’s basketball team returns to Thunder Bay next weekend to face the Brock Badgers for their home-opening weekend of OUA regular season play. Action against the Badgers tips at 6:00pm on Friday, November 12th, and again at 6:00pm on Saturday, November 13th.
The men’s hoop team travelled to Hamilton with an undefeated preseason under their belts, and they kept the streak going with an 84-83 win on Friday night.
“It was a gritty team win,” Thunderwolves head coach Ryan Thomson said. “We got down early and had to battle back.”
After finishing the first quarter of play with a two-point lead, Lakehead let the Marauders build steam in their gym and took a 13-point deficit into the half. The Thunderwolves won both quarters of the second half, however, taking the W. Laoui Msambya finished with 24 points and 6 rebounds, while Michael Okafor dropped 20 points of his own.
“Our defense and intensity in the second half was what kept us in it,” Thomson said. “We need to continue to work on stringing together 40 minutes.” Lakehead finished with 12 combined blocks and steals—five more than the Mac squad, including a +3 points-off-turnovers margin and a +8 second-chance points margin.
Saturday night, however, saw the Thunderwolves drop their first action of the young season, bringing their OUA regular season record to 1-1 and their USport record to 5-1.
“It was a tough loss, but it offered a lot to build on,” Thomson said. “McMaster is a talented group and we weren’t as consistent as we needed to be over the course of 40 minutes.”
The game again saw Lakehead relinquish a lead in the second frame, but they were unable to repeat the previous night’s comeback, with McMaster taking the 91-80 win.
Thunderwolves wing Michael Okafor finished with a double-double of 26 points and 13 boards, good enough for a weekend total of 46 points and 19 rebounds. Laoui Msambya and Alston Harris each scored in double figures, while Dylan Morrison added 9 rebounds.
The men’s basketball team returns home to the Thunderdome next to host the Brock Badgers on Friday, November 12th and Saturday November 13th. Each game will tip off at 8:00pm, following women’s basketball.