While no snow is on the ground yet, the ACAC has arrived at their yearly winter break. The schedule will pick back up in the new year as student-athletes across the province head home for the holiday season. With the stoppage comes an opportunity to reflect on an event-filled fall term of NAIT athletics and see where the Ooks line up heading into 2024. Here is what you may have missed over the past few months.
It was a great regular season for the men’s and women’s teams, with the men finishing 8-2-2 and the women finishing 7-3-2. However, neither team walked away as conference champions. Despite an explosive offence that found the back of the net 39 times—the second most in the ACAC—the men came up short in the gold medal game against the Keyano College Huskies, losing 4-2 in penalty kicks to take home silver. The women’s team went 1-2-1 in their final four regular season games and clinched the final playoff spot, but couldn’t overcome the SAIT Trojans in the first round, falling 3-1.
After a nine-year hiatus, NAIT returned to the ACAC Golf scene and qualified two teams to nationals. Mason Gorski led the way for NAIT on the men’s side, finishing the tournament 18th with a +12 Total to Par Gross (TPG), just 19 shots behind the national champion. In the women’s bracket, Michaella Kibblewhite finished the tournament 16th with a +81 TPG.
This program also returned, competing for the first time since 2014. The Ooks cross-country team competed against the best in the CCAA at the Cross-Country Championships in Nova Scotia. After sending two runners to nationals, the new program’s inaugural campaign was one to remember. Hannah Warford crossed the finish line 48th in her division, with Shawn Gunnink finishing 51st in the men’s.
Sitting second in the standings with a record of 10-5, the Ooks women’s team is on fire. The blue and gold’s offence has scored 52 goals so far this season—the most in the ACAC—and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Forwards Cassidy Shandro and Bre Martin sit second and third for most goals scored this season with 11 and seven, so expect the Ooks offence to continue producing through the second half.
Soaring into the break, the men’s team recorded just one loss in nine games—with their previous loss coming against Briercrest College on October 20. The Ooks sit first in the ACAC with a 9-3 record and first in goals scored this season with 60. With three of the top five point scorers in the ACAC (Ethan Leyer, Bryce Osepchuk and Bjorn Robinson) at the forefront of the Ooks offence, NAIT seems poised to make another deep playoff run.
Two years removed from a CCAA National Championship, NAIT’s women’s program holds third place in the North Division 10 games into the season. With a record of 5-5, the team has almost surpassed their win total of six from 2022-2023. Their ability to shoot the three ball was a significant contributor to their success on offence so far. They shot an ACAC leading 29.9 per cent from beyond the arc. Watch for this team to be a playoff threat if they continue their dominant run of shooting down the stretch.
On the men’s side, NAIT is third in field goal percentage with 46.9 per cent and fourth in three-point percentage with 35.9 per cent. The Ooks sit fifth in the division after a five-game losing streak, but they’ve found ways to attack the basket from beyond the arc. It will take a resilient second half if the group wants to make the playoffs.
After gaining what the team called a “historic recruiting class,” the men have started the season hot. The Ooks are fourth in the North Division with a 6-3 record and tied for the least number of games played this season. Keyano College leads the division with a 10-2 record, but there are still 10 games remaining before the playoffs, so NAIT has time to move up the standings in the second half of the season.
The women’s team has yet to hit its stride this year. After a disappointing four-game losing streak, the blue and gold managed to string together a pair of victories. They’re sitting last in the division for the first half of the season at 3-6, meaning there’s a steep hill to climb to qualify for playoffs.
Coming off a trip to the CCAA Curling Championships in 2023, the men’s team started hot at this year’s Fall Regionals, leaving the tournament with a record of 4-1. The NAIT mixed team also had a successful playoff run last season, finishing second at the ACAC championship. This year, the mixed team came home with a 2-4 record at the regionals to start the 2023-2024 season. Success was hard to come by on the women’s side, as the group finished the tournament in last place with a 0-6 record.