Where do we go from here?

As the Concordia men’s basketball team walked off the court after losing in the CIS Final 8 consolation semifinal game last weekend in Halifax, it marked an end not only to the team’s season, but the end of the 2011-2012 Concordia sports season.

With the men’s loss, all Stingers teams’ seasons have officially wrapped up, leaving nothing left to do but review the year and ask where the athletics department goes from here.

The basketball program is clearly the school’s gem. The men especially are perennially dominant in the conference and expect to appear in the national championship. But as this year showed, Concordia has a long way to go to compete with top dogs like StFX and Carleton. Still, the Stingers expect to return MVP Evens Laroche and outstanding guard Kyle Desmarais. Despite the glum finish to this year, it’s not as though a drastic fall is in store for the men.

The story is largely the same for the women. The season came to a disappointing end, but the team’s best will be back for another shot. MVP Kaylah Barrett is returning and so is sharpshooting forward Natasha Raposo. The women’s disappointing close can largely be attributed to health issues (injuries hampered several players), and not lack of talent. The basketball teams will have a lot to look forward to on the hardwood next season.

The future for other teams is fuzzier.

Both men’s and women’s soccer undeniably took a step backwards this year and with historical recruiting problems, it will likely be a long time before Concordia is making noise in the province, let alone nationally.

The women’s hockey team was also in disarray this season. An extended mid-season losing streak sank Concordia and the team finished dead last in its conference, not within the same area code of a playoff spot.

As crosstown McGill runs the premier women’s hockey program in the country, top recruits view Martlets hockey as a feeder program to the Canadian national team. Concordia simply can’t compete with McGill’s reputation, facilities and budget.

As well as being at a competitive disadvantage to McGill, a certain lull and expectation of mediocrity seems to have settled over the women’s program. At many times this season, the women seemed to lack a sense of urgency to win, often seeming complacent with consistently poor on-ice results. As important as recruiting is, it seems a change in the losing culture and attitude that surrounds the team is needed to move forward.

Like their women counterparts, the men’s hockey team faces similar challenges (McGill also runs a top-notch men’s hockey program), though they were much more competitive. The Stingers were one of the highest scoring teams in the country this season, and should they return key players like George Lovatsis, Michael Stinziani and Alexandre Monahan, the team will be a force next year. A year of seasoning for the team’s three first-year goalies will also be greatly beneficial. To see the Stingers ranked in the CIS top-10 next year is not out of the cards, but far from a guarantee.

One of the biggest concerns for coach Kevin Figsby is that, like this season, sometimes the team will have recruits poached by professional clubs just before the season begins, leaving the team scrounging for replacements. Even current players have sometimes left school early to pursue their dreams in the AHL and ECHL. Figsby is always encouraging his players to finish school before playing in the low ranks of professional hockey, but understands that the idea of being a mere jump from the NHL can pull players out of the CIS.

Until Figsby knows exactly which players will be taking the ice for Concordia, it will be difficult to gauge the potential of a highly talented squad that narrowly missed the playoffs in the country’s toughest conference.

A long year has drawn to its close at Concordia and it’s time to utter perhaps the most romanticized line in sports: There’s always next year.

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