The year in Abbotsford sports

With 2011 disappearing in the rear view mirror, The News ranks the 10 most memorable Abbotsford sporting performances of the year.

Adam Hadwin's breakthrough season was one of Abbotsford's major sports highlights of 2011.

With 2011 disappearing in the rear view mirror, The News ranks the 10 most memorable Abbotsford sporting performances of the year.

1. Hadwin breaks through

The goosebumps-inducing moment of 2011 came on July 24 at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, as Adam Hadwin strode up to the 18th green to a rousing ovation from the gallery. The Abbotsford golfer was putting the finishing touches on a thrilling fourth-place finish at the RBC Canadian Open, and the crowd was hailing the arrival of a charismatic, talented new Canadian golf star.

By year’s end, the 24-year-old was the top Canadian in the World Golf Rankings (238th), and had earned $440,752 in five PGA Tour starts. Hadwin fell just short of earning his PGA Tour card, but he served notice that he’ll be one to watch in 2012.

2. Hawks win AAA title

The W.J. Mouat Hawks senior girls basketball team claimed the first AAA title in program history on March 12, as they edged the Claremont Spartans of Victoria 69-64 in the B.C. final.

Kayli Sartori was named tournament MVP after racking up 27 points and 10 rebounds in the final, while Jaslyen Singh and Katie Brink were first and second team all-stars, respectively. The senior girls’ championship highlighted a terrific basketball season at Mouat, as all five of the school’s teams – senior boys and girls, junior boys and girls, and Grade 9 boys – qualified for provincials.

3. Underdog Bearcats win national crown

March 12 was a huge day on the Abbotsford sports scene. In addition to the Mouat girls’ B.C. crown, the Columbia Bible College men’s volleyball team won the school’s first CCAA national championship.

The Bearcats, seeded sixth at nationals, knocked off No. 3 seed and tourney host Sherbrooke, No. 2 Briercrest College, and finally No. 1 UBC-Okanagan en route to the title. Will Quiring was tourney MVP, while Matt Kaminski and Emmanuel Denguessi were first team all-stars and libero Justin Wood was a second-teamer.

4. Gough wins gold

On Dec. 17, Abbotsford skeleton athlete Amy Gough slid to a gold medal in a World Cup race at Winterberg, Germany. The 34-year-old, who represented Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, already had a silver and three bronze medals on her World Cup resumé, but the Winterberg race marked the first time she’d climbed to the top step of the podium.

The triumph was all the more remarkable considering Gough was grieving the death of her father Robert, 70, who had passed away two days prior to the race.

5. Lieuwen leads the way

Abbotsford-born goalie Nathan Lieuwen put together a tremendous 2010-11 campaign. He led the Kootenay Ice to the Western Hockey League championship and a third-place finish at the Memorial Cup, picking up WHL playoff MVP honours along the way. His strong play was rewarded at the NHL entry draft, as he was picked in the sixth round by the Buffalo Sabres.

6. Dhinsa dominates

Sunny Dhinsa ruled on the wrestling mat at every level in 2011.

In February, the heavyweight grappler wrapped up his high school wrestling career with the W.J. Mouat Hawks by winning his third consecutive B.C. title. He went on win four national titles in three age classes – in juvenile (18-and-under) freestyle and Greco-Roman,  junior (20-and-under) freestyle, and senior Greco-Roman.

Dhinsa also won gold at the Commonwealth Championships, finished 11th at Junior Worlds, and won the Canadian Olympic Greco-Roman trials. Not bad for an athlete who only turned 18 in May.

7. Virtanen tops the draft

Jake Virtanen made history on May 5, when he was selected No. 1 overall in the WHL bantam draft by the Calgary Hitmen. He became the first Abbotsford hockey prospect to achieve that lofty distinction.

Virtanen put up eye-popping numbers with the Abbotsford bantam Tier 1 Hawks in 2010-11, racking up 70 goals and 49 assists for 119 points in 62 games.

8. Eagles extend dynasty

The Mennonite Educational Institute senior boys volleyball team capped a decade of dominance with a dramatic comeback victory in the AA provincial title game on Dec. 3.

The Eagles dropped the first two sets against College Heights of Prince George, but rallied to win the next three to clinch their eighth B.C. championship in 10 years. Jeremy Lieuwen (goalie Nathan’s younger brother) was tournament MVP.

9. Mariners win B.C. title

The under-18 boys soccer team from Magnuson Ford Mariners FC won its first Provincial ‘A’ Cup title in eight years, crushing the Shuswap FC Selects 5-0 in the B.C. final on July 3.

The Mariners surrendered just one goal over the course of five playoff victories, and went on to finish fifth at nationals in October.

10. Hurricanes strike gold

The Rick Hansen Hurricanes senior boys wrestling squad won the provincial high school team championship at Abbotsford’s Ag-Rec Building on Feb. 26.

The Hurricanes saw just one wrestler – Jasmit Phulka at 78 kg – win individual gold, but seven athletes advanced at least as far as the semifinals. Phulka’s cousin Jobanjit won silver at 74 kg, while Maneet Klair (48 kg), Ranjot Sandher (60 kg) and Ravneet Sandhu (110 kg) took bronze.

Honourable mention

Boseko Lokombo, a linebacker with the NCAA’s Oregon Ducks football team, began 2011 by playing in the BCS national championship game. His Ducks dropped a 22-19 decision on Jan. 10 to the Auburn Tigers.  Lokombo’s Oregon squad plays in the Rose Bowl vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 2, 2012.

• Nakai Luyken of Yale Secondary won the senior boys 100-metre dash at high school track and field provincials. Aisha Klippenstein of the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts was a double medallist, taking silver in the triple jump and bronze in the 100m hurdles.

• Derek Grant and Mark Isherwood capped their first seasons as pro hockey players with championships. Grant won the AHL’s Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators, while Isherwood hoisted the ECHL’s Kelly Cup with the Alaska Aces.

• For the Abbotsford Heat, 2011 was defined by change. With team president Tom Mauthe and head coach Jim Playfair departing over the summer to pursue other opportunities, Ryan Walter and Troy Ward were hired to fill those respective roles. The Heat are off to a terrific start to the 2011-12 season, sitting second overall in the AHL at the Christmas break.

• Brandon Todoruk of the Abbotsford Cardinals won the B.C. Premier Baseball League triple crown, leading the elite under-18 circuit in batting average (.404), runs batted in (32) and home runs (three, tied with five other players).

• On the water polo scene, Robbie Fisher represented Canada at the FINA Junior Men’s Water Polo Championship in Greece, while Alexa Tielmann landed a scholarship from NCAA powerhouse UCLA.

• Track and field star Natasha Miller wrapped up her collegiate career at Biola University in Los Angeles by being named the outstanding female athlete at the NAIA indoor national championships. She also won bronze in the heptathlon at the Canadian senior national championships.

• Brandon Jobb of the Abbotsford Judo Club won his third consecutive junior national title, winning gold in the under-81 kg weight class.

• Sophie Schmidt attended her second FIFA Women’s World Cup with the Canadian national soccer team, but her squad failed to make it past the group stage.

• The W.J. Mouat senior football squad battled their way to the B.C. title game, where they dropped a 42-35 decision to the Mount Douglas Rams of Victoria.

• The Abbotsford Rugby Football Club’s year was highlighted by a provincial Division 1 title by the senior women on May 14 – a 29-10 victory over Kamloops. On Oct. 29, the elite men’s side beat Burnaby 24-22 to clinch a spot in the CDI Premier League.

• Both University of the Fraser Valley basketball teams made the playoffs, and the Cascades women staged a breakthrough performance. The seventh-seeded squad upset the No. 2 Winnipeg Wesmen in the first round, and advanced to the Canada West Final Four and the CIS East Regional.

• Jacob Doerksen capped his much-decorated CIS basketball career by leading the Trinity Western Spartans to a national silver medal.

• Abbotsford’s Jimmy Hansra represented Canada at the Cricket World Cup in February.

• The Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame welcomed four new members: Kelly Lochbaum (football), Ken Yates (community sport builder), John Cannon (rugby), and Stephanie Tsang (judo).

• The Abbotsford Pilots made it to the Pacific International Junior Hockey League final, where they were swept by the Richmond Sockeyes.

• A pair of Yale Secondary alums represented Canada at major international events. Matt Letkeman wore the Maple Leaf at U19 Men’s Basketball Worlds in Lithuania, while Brad Kufske participated in Junior Men’s Volleyball Worlds in Brazil.

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