Two years after making it to the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union tournament as a wild-card team, the University of Calgary Dinosaurs field hockey squad is making another run at the title.
Last season marked a rebuilding year for the team, which lost a number of key players, but this year should see a more solid crew take the pitch.
Two important Dinos, forward Mindy Bellingham and defender Dawn Shields, left after last season, but coach Deb Covey-Barnett has players who can step up and fill their shoes.
"Similar to last year, we’ll have a very young group," said Covey-Barnett. "Half of the team will be in their second year. They’re really feisty, with good energy."
The lone fifth-year Dino will be Heather Tanaka, who will split her time between forward and midfield, although Covey-Barnett will need her to play more at the latter position, because of her experience.
Along with Tanaka, the Dinos will be relying on Teresa McLachlan, an all-Canadian at sweeper, and midfielder Allison Johnson, both fourth-year Dinos, for leadership.
"Those three will be key players this year," noted Covey-Barnett.
Ashley Reaburn will be one of the many second-year Dinos, but she’s likely to stand out in the crowd. During the offseason, Reaburn played with the junior national team, which should have a positive effect on her play with the U of C.
Reaburn, third-year forward Amy Newton and second-year forward Kelsey Barrie will be expected to provide the bulk of the Dinos’ offence this year.
"They’ll provide lots of firepower," said Covey-Barnett.
Among the rookies, Stephanie Maxwell, whose mother is a Kinesiology professor and a former two-sport standout at the U of C, will have an important role in the midfield, where only McLachlan and Tanaka will be returning from last year’s lineup.
It’s all well and good that the Dinos have a good team, but they are playing in the nation’s toughest conference, so other teams might have something to say about where they finish in the standings.
Covey-Barnett hasn’t seen any of the other teams’ rosters yet, but knows that the University of Alberta Pandas will be losing at least two of their best players.
"Their changes will be weaker, but ours will be stronger," she said.
The universities of Victoria and British Columbia will be strong, as usual, but Covey-Barnett thinks that her team has an edge on them.
"We’ve had a little better start. We’re gelling really well. I’m excited about what’s coming up."
Covey-Barnett neglected to mention any developments in the always-laughable University of Manitoba Bisons camp.
T he Dinos’ first Canada West tournament will take place Sept. 24-26 in Edmonton, but you can catch them in action before that. This weekend, they’ll take on an alumni team that could include such stars from the past as Kathy Massey, Michaela Walter, Mindy Bellingham, Jenn Peyton and Char Christopherson. Games take place both Saturday and Sunday in McMahon Stadium at 10 a.m.