Ooks 2016-17 season highlights

An exciting season of highs, lows and surprises

The 2016-17 Ooks athletics season was one that reminded students and staff to focus on what matters most. The experience is the thing, not the championships.

“I don’t necessarily measure success in terms of the national banners in the gym,” says athletics manager Gregg Meropoulis. “We’re always among the most successful ACAC [Alberta College Athletic Conference] programs in the classroom.”

In 2016-17, more than 70 of NAIT’s 200 student-athletes made the honour roll. Of the 23 who excelled in their sports to be named ACAC All Conference players, 11 did it with top marks, earning the national title of Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Academic All Canadians. "That's very difficult to achieve," says Meropoulis.

Also at the national level, 5 players – from soccer, basketball and badminton – were named All Canadians for stellar athletic performance.

Even if recent championships proved elusive for the Ooks, academic achievements weren’t the only high points. Keeping the most important measurements in mind, here’s a look at a year worth celebrating.

NAIT ooks womens soccer 2016-17

Undefeated – almost

The women’s soccer team went undefeated in 2016-17, tallying 9 wins and 1 tie to take the Alberta College Athletic Conference (ACAC) gold medal.

The team hasn’t lost a game since the 2013-14 season but they were unable to parlay that into success at the national championships. “The quality was there,” says Meropoulis, but the end result was a shootout loss for fourth place.

NAIT ooks kassy jajczay ccaa women's soccer player of the year

The Great Jajczay

After a season in which she scored a stunning 16 goals in 10 games – 5 of them game winners – Kassy Jajczay was named the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) Player of the Year for women’s soccer.

“Her commitment on the field has been exceptional,” head coach Carole Holt said. “Her teammates can depend on her in every game.”

NAIT ooks curling 2016-17

A stone’s throw from gold

NAIT continued its long tradition of winning provincial medals in curling, with the women winning bronze and the men earning silver at Lakeland College this February.

But in Camrose for the nationals this March, the polytechnic's national medal streak ended. For the first time since 1986, the teams came away with nothing but a season of otherwise fond memories.

nait ooks badminton 2016-17

Badminton stars

Domination of provincial badminton in 2016-17 was no surprise, given that NAIT has topped the tournament every year since 2008-09. This year, they beat Olds College 7-0.

Nationally, however, a golden streak that has run since 2011 finally snapped. The team finished with 2 silver medals and a bronze.

NAIT ooks basketball 2016-17

The nation comes to NAIT

For the first time, the polytechnic hosted the CCAA women’s basketball championship, bringing 7 teams to campus this March from across Canada. Meropoulis, whose 38 years at NAIT include 20 spent coaching the women’s basketball team, chaired the event’s organizing group.

Though the team did not earn a medal, it still impressed him by beating the tournament favourite in the first round.

“We probably pulled the upset of the century by beating Humber College,” he says. “They hadn’t been beaten in a year and a half.” Unfortunately, the Ontario team rallied in the bronze-medal round to defeat NAIT.

Nevertheless, says Meropoulis, “I’m sure our graduating seniors will remember that upset as one of the highlights of their careers.” 

nait ooks hockey 2016-17

So close

Attendees at the men’s hockey final got their money’s worth and more as the third of 3-game final between NAIT and MacEwan University went into overtime on March 19. Ooks fans, however, might argue otherwise.

“The men had victory snatched out from underneath their feet,” says Meropoulis. “In overtime, it was a lucky bounce and some pretty good hand-eye coordination that potted the winning goal. Unfortunately we were on the wrong end of it.”

Nonetheless, the ACAC took notice of the leadership skills of Ooks head coach, Tim Fragle (Management ’04). He was named Men’s Hockey Coach of the Year for efforts that led his team to a 22-6, first-overall finish during the regular season.

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