Excitement builds with Ontario varsity sports set to return this fall

Last year, COVID-19 put a pause on university athletics as students studied online for the school year and sports seasons were either shortened or cancelled.

Wednesday, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced schedules for men’s and women’s volleyball as well as men’s and women’s hockey. That news has some Nipissing Laker athletes seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It’s super exciting, especially because I’m going into my fourth year," said Shaelyn Francis, a left-side hitter on the women’s volleyball team. "It’s like I missed out on a whole year. Being a graduate, a leader on the team, and a vet, it’s kind of nice to see that we’re having a season."

Men’s volleyball captain Mason Blais echoed her comments. Blais is entering his final year of eligibility and plans to leave it all on the court.

"I’m just looking forward to chasing that OUA gold medal one last time -- I’ve been trying for five years, so we’re hoping this is the year," he said.

"We haven’t played with each other for well over a year now, so we’re excited to get the Nipissing Lakers uniform back on and giving it all we have."

Things will look a little different when the season begins. Typically, teams travel throughout the province and play every university, but come the fall, teams will only play those in their division and the season will be a bit shorter.

"I don’t think it really matters who we're playing," said Nipissing Lakers women’s hockey head coach Darren Turcotte.

"Our schedule did get cut by four games, but compared to the 2020/21 season, it’s definitely a step in the right direction."

Neither Nipissing University nor the OUA has announced whether fans will be allowed at games in the fall.