As many Ontario University Athletics sports now begin post-season play, multiple Mustang teams find themselves in championship hunts heading into Saturday and Sunday.
Both the women’s and men’s cross-country squads face adversity heading into the OUA Championships on Saturday.
“I think it’ll be a formidable task to take the championship on both the men’s and women’s sides,” Mustang cross-country coach Bob Vigars said as he worked to prepare both teams for the championships. “The women have been weakened by illness and injuries. When you’re against the top-ranked team in the country, with two top runners out, you have to be realistic. We’re hopeful of at least a podium finish.”
The men’s team is healthy enough, but dominant opponents stand in their way.
“The men face Guelph and Windsor, who have been the top two ranked teams for three straight years,” Vigars said. “It’s formidable to think we can knock them off. Again, we’re hopeful for a medal — that would be prestigious in itself, a good sign for the future, and it of course prolongs our season.”
Vigars also discussed psychological hurdles challenging the men’s squad.
“The men are getting all fired up, trading emails and so on, but what I’ll do is make sure they don’t get cranked up too soon,” he said. “It can be a mistake to get too fired up. I know it’s a cliché, but sometimes if you approach competition differently, it can bite you in the butt.”
The rugby pitch will feature playoff Mustang rugby action on Saturday, with big games for the men and especially the women. The men take on Queen’s in the OUA semi-final, while the women face Toronto for the OUA championship.
Mustang women’s head coach Natascha Wesch stressed physicality as the key to OUA gold.
“We’ve been working really hard over the past three or four weeks on getting physical and punishing the opposition,” she said. “We’ve been punishing ourselves too — beating ourselves up in practice — and the players have really been responding.”
Wesch’s team plans to suck Toronto’s strength away, then pick its opponent apart with pure talent.
“Against Toronto, our plan is to punish them physically, and when they’re down and out, we’ll beat them with our abilities — particularly our kicking skills.”
In football, the Mustangs host the York Lions in the OUA quarter-finals. After a 1-2 start to the season, Western caught fire, winning five straight games to enter the playoffs as the third overall seed with a 6-2 record.
The ‘Stangs also take to the waters on Saturday morning. The men’s and women’s rowing teams will take part in the OUA championships at Fanshawe Lake.
Men’s rowing head coach Volker Nolte hopes his group’s team chemistry will overcome their health issues.
“Last year we were third at the OUA championships, and this year we improved greatly with our teamwork and cohesion. They’ve been a fun group to work with,” Nolte said. “Unfortunately we are short on bodies — we’ve had multiple injuries to face. Although we’re very well set up with our boats, our major goal is to go in healthy.”
Western’s men’s and women’s soccer teams also have a busy weekend ahead, with both playing at home in OUA quarter-final action. The Mustangs’ opponents for Sunday’s games will be determined by Friday’s playoff results.
For a full schedule of all Mustang weekend post-season play, as well as regular season play for other sports, be sure to check Friday’s edition of The Gazette.