‘Everything resets when we go to playoffs’: STU athletics gears up for post-season

Still of Laura Brown playing for the ST. Thomas University Women's hockey team. (Submitted: SRM Photography)

As midterms fill schedules and the winter reading break inches closer, the St. Thomas University teams are gearing up for the winter playoffs. Unlike last season, all five winter sports teams successfully punched their ticket to the playoffs, hoping to hoist the trophy in their respective sport when the season ends. 

Skating into semifinals

Currently, the women’s hockey playoffs are underway and the team is in the semifinals against the St. Francis Xavier X-Women, who they split the 2023-24 season series with. In the quarterfinals, the team swept the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues in the first round 2-0 in the best-of-three series, thanks partly to a pair of stellar goaltending performances from goalie Katie Sweeney.  

This week, the team spent two nights in Antigonish, N.S., for the first two games of the series. 

“it’s challenging in the sense that we will be missing class for three days … and versus regular season, we’re only ever missing maybe a Friday or a Wednesday, so that’s more challenging … especially when you’re facing a Nova Scotia or a P.E.I. team” said Laura Brown, a fourth-year defenseman.   

The trip to Antigonish means around four hours each way on the bus, which the team is used to, but it can be more challenging during playoffs, said Brown. 

“You’re playing a far away team back-to-back-to-back and it can be really taxing, so that’s where it differs from the regular season.”  

The team’s approach is trying to maintain a positive atmosphere on the ice, in the dressing room and at practice during the entirety of their playoffs, said Brown. 

For the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s hockey playoffs, they use a three-round model, where the quarterfinals are best of three, the semifinals are best of five and the final is best of three as well.

Basketball team nets a playoff spot

Fourth-year Celine Sterckel is looking ahead to the women’s basketball playoffs, which will happen Mar. 1 to 3 in P.E.I. 

Still of Celine Sterckel for the women’s basketball of St. Thomas University. (Submitted:SRM Photography)

“Everything resets when we go to playoffs,” said Sterckel.

She doesn’t believe her team’s current record defines how good their team is, but that playoffs will give them a second opportunity to reset that record and make a good push towards a championship. 

The team’s goal is to leave everything out on the court and use the two games left in the season against Mount Allison and Holland to their advantage, as they could see both teams come playoff time.  

“We’re just gonna leave everything out on the court [and] give it our all because obviously, it’s single-game elimination,” said Sterckel.

For the basketball playoffs, the top six teams from the league move on, with the top two teams receiving a bye to the semifinals. 

Digging for gold

The volleyball teams have a similar tournament-style weekend, which took place this past weekend from Feb. 23-25 in Saint John, N.B. The top four teams from each league play in two matches to determine the teams moving on to the finals.

Raph Fiset is a second-year setter on the STU men’s volleyball team. The volleyball playoffs and regular season play are extremely different, he said. 

“You play sixteen matches to determine where you rank and then after that in playoffs, it really does not matter … So really, anything can happen,” said Fiset. 

The Tommies talked about the possibility of ‘upsetting’ the Université de Sainte-Anne team who are going into playoffs with a 11-2 record, said Fiset. They could just as easily be ‘upset’ by a team ranked lower if they have a bad game. 

“It’s really about just showing up … we got to be ready to go right away,” said Fiset. “We can’t have a bad game. It’s not the time.”  

As for the goals, each athlete echoed the same goal as a team, to win the conference championship in their respective sport. For Fiset, he wants to win the ACAA men’s volleyball title not just for himself but for some of his graduating teammates.  

“There’s some players who will not be returning, such as Austin Hamilton [and] Brendan Murphy, [who] will never get the chance to play again. So I want to be able to do that for them.”