Do UTS titles come in pairs?
Welcome to the 2018-19 season! 2018 was a very competitive year with several strong teams and players, and hopefully we’re in for another treat this year. I don’t have all the insights or predictions, but let’s take a look at the different regions of Canada.
I am still mostly in the dark about the west coast. I can rarely notice strong teams from there, yet they can still easily make quarterfinals or higher at Nationals. Last year, those teams gave a scare to the Ontario powerhouses, and if any of them have a good chunk of returning players, they might snap up a semifinal spot or two. The three most frequent competitors are St. George’s, Sir Winston Churchill, and Eric Hamber.
The Renert School is the little school that could, pulling off the provincial title last year over Old Scona. Expect these two to be the front-runners again. Old Scona has made it as far as the national semifinals before, while Renert will hope to use their returning talent and crack the quarterfinals after three straight years of consolation runs.
Kelvin HS has carried the banner for Manitoba for several years, and another national playoff run should be in the cards. St. Paul and St. John-Ravenscourt are other regulars, but we may catch a surprise from some of the revived clubs from the CBC championship days (River East or Dakota, for example).
Ontario will probably be UTS’ to lose, even after the graduation of talent. They had a strong group of junior players split amongst the “A”, “B”, and “C” teams at independent tournaments, and will surely coalesce into a strong senior squad this year. In London, Central is expected to yet again take the city crown, while Banting is probably going to drop off after their star player’s departure. In Hamilton, Westmount will easily take the city and assemble a good mix of returning players in an attempt to do better than their somewhat premature playoff exit last May. Whether it’s White Oaks, OTHS, Abbey Park, or Assumption, the Halton region will be solid contenders for provincial playoffs again and many of them will be on preview at independent events this year. In Toronto, UTS and Martingrove will continue to be national contenders, while RSGC will be in tough against local competitors after the departure of their cohort that gave four great years of growth. In Ottawa, both Lisgar and Glebe will return the majority of their players – they will surely lock the city finals and could both reach at least the second round of provincial playoffs. For the province on the whole, though, Ontario will probably not be as strong as in 2018. The representatives will all be in the mix for national semifinals, but they could be vulnerable to a strong squad from another province.
Quebec is always impossible to predict. A CEGEP will likely claim the provincial title, but CEGEP team composition, by rule, changes every year. It’s hard to preview them during the year as well, because CEGEPs would be excluded from Montreal History Bowl and most events in other provinces.
This is probably the easiest provincial title to pick. Kennebecasis Valley barely faced any other schools en route to their senior title last year, and while those other schools will have 2018 juniors come up to senior competition, so too will the KV club that picked up several junior division titles along the way. KV will be focusing on the out-of-province events to keep pace for their nationals run.
Nova Scotia was down to five teams last year, and I don’t think the prospects for improvement are very good for 2019. Nova Scotia (and to some extent, New Brunswick) did much better back when Dalhousie ran independent tournaments; now the university takes the role of sponsoring the official SchoolReach tournament with much less publicity and prizes. Any ambitious teams in the province should consider tapping into the New Brunswick “regular season” events that run separate from provincials.
As the season progresses, we’ll get a clearer picture of the contenders. UTS’ event in October and Lisgar’s event in February will be the big results haul. Teams would do well to try to play on these sets, either at the main site or a satellite tournament run in another region. UTS tends to be a good preview for Ontario Provincials, while Lisgar gives the Nationals snapshot (with its incredible coincidence of the runner-up school getting the national title). Not only are these independent events good tournament preparation, but for Ontario teams, the results can help your cause for better pool placements at provincials.
Good luck to all the teams this year, and don’t be too inflated or discouraged by this preview. The year has only just begun, and everything is still to be played for. Have a great season!