Maya Bandy was looking forward to her fifth and final year with the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s soccer team.
The 21-year-old veteran fullback from Coldstream was excited to be part of an up-and-coming Heat squad that includes Vernon’s Maddy Laranjo and plays a unique style they’ve spent the last few seasons perfecting. UBCO, Bandy hoped, would contend in U-SPORTS’ Canada West conference.
Instead, Bandy has likely played her last game with the Heat.
She and her teammates learned Monday, June 8, that Canada West was cancelling fall team sports competition, including soccer, rugby 15s, football and field hockey, due to COVID-19.
“It’s disappointing, really sad news,” said Bandy, a bachelor of science student with a major in microbiology, who works as a clerk at Olive Us in downtown Vernon. “I was shocked when I heard.”
Canada West president and University of Victoria athletic director, Armstrong native Clint Hamilton, made the announcement.
“The challenging nature of today’s announcement can’t be understated. As a former student-athlete and coach I feel deeply for everyone who won’t be able to experience the joys of university competition this fall,” said Hamilton.
“While cancellation isn’t the outcome anyone associated with university sport wanted, I’m confident in the fact that this difficult decision is in the best interests of our student-athletes. Health and safety is at the forefront of everything we do and simply put there was no way to adequately ensure the safety of everyone involved in university sport during competition this fall.”
Changes to eligibility and scholarship regulations for 2020-21, most notably that of fall-sport student-athletes, will not be charged a year of eligibility.
So, in theory, Bandy, could play one more year if she goes for her masters degree, though it may not be at UBCO. She could do her masters at a school that has a women’s soccer team, and she would have one year of eligibility.
But if she has played her final game, Bandy will look fondly upon her time with the Heat.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Bandy, who scored twice as a midfield freshman before being moving to the backline. “It was hard being a student-athlete but it was a pleasure getting to play with and getting to know my teammates.”
Just starting his university career is football player Caden Danbrook, a wide receiver with the two-time B.C. AA Subway Bowl High School champion Vernon Panthers. Danbrook is one of four Cats signed by the reigning Canadian champion Calgary Dinos, whose roster includes Panthers alum Josh Hyer, who would be entering his final season with the Dinos.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Danbrook of the news, though it may not affect him much. Danbrook said he may red-shirt his freshman season (to red-shirt means an athlete withdraws from college sporting events for a year to develop their skills and extend their period of playing eligibility by a further year). “I’m going to get more information this week meeting with our coaches.”
More than a dozen North Okanagan student-athletes are affected by the Canada West first-term ruling.
Additional decisions on whether first term conference championships scheduled for men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s swimming will be made by July 15 following further exploration around feasibility.
The decision to cancel first term competition in team sports also impacts men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s volleyball, along with men’s and women’s basketball. The aforementioned sports traditionally span both the first and second terms, but conference play in these sports will commence no sooner than January 2021, with a decision on the matter being made by Oct. 8.
Whether second term competitions (men’s and women’s wrestling, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s curling, and women’s rugby 7s) are staged will also be made by the same Oct. 8 deadline.
Canada West’s announcement came on the same day as both Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced their own first term cancellations, which were made independently by each conference’s board of directors.