With the school year just around the corner, the Western Mustangs varsity and club teams are gearing up for another athletic season.
Here are five must-watch Mustangs teams heading into the 2017-18 season.
5. Men's squash
Any discussion of successful Mustangs teams must include the men's squash program. Since 1984, the men's squash program has won 34 consecutive Ontario University Athletics titles. Their history of excellence dates back to the days of legendary head coach Jack Fairs, who won 42 OUA titles, and has continued under Derek Moore since 2015. Moore looks to bring back another dominating roster to win OUA title number 45.
Mike Lumley has built the Mustangs baseball program from the ground up, transforming the squad into back-to-back OUA champions. Following a 6–3 victory over their rivals — the Brock Badgers — last October, the team took home the provincial crown. These Mustangs have had a long off-season to prepare for a potential three-peat. Among the returning Mustangs is Andrew Warner, who was named OUA playoff MVP in 2016 after going 8-for-14 with 10 RBIs. With both a dominant rotation and a dynamic hitting game, the Mustangs are slated for more success in 2017.
Enough has been written of the Mustangs' jaw-dropping loss to the Wilfried Laurier Golden Hawks in the 2016 Yates Cup. Revenge is certain to be on the minds of every single person involved with the football program, and head coach Greg Marshall will have no shortage of bulletin board material to prepare his team for the season ahead. The Mustangs have a revamped offence, with former St. Francis Xavier University offensive coordinator Steve Snyder returning to his hometown to run the offence that includes returning quarterback Chris Merchant and running back Alex Taylor. Merchant threw for 2,205 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, while Taylor finished second in the OUA in rushing yards with 987 yards ran.
Volker Nolte is out as head coach of the rowing program, having announced his retirement earlier this spring. After a 24-year career that saw the illustrious coach win 14 OUA men's championships and five women's titles, Nolte has passed the keys to the program to Matt Waddell and Dan Bechard. With the guidance of new head coaches, the Mustangs are hoping to continue their streak. And with Nolte's legacy of innovation in both training techniques and biomechanics engrained in the very foundation of the program, the Mustangs should continue their dominance for years to come.
1. Women's volleyball
After a season that saw the Mustangs upset the then-undefeated Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA semifinals, the team captured a provincial silver medal and a spot in the U Sports national championship tournament. The women's volleyball team will eye the top prize this year. Vital to the team's hopes is star middle Kelsey Veltman, who was named OUA West Player of the Year and a Second Team All-Canadian last year. Alongside Veltman, the Mustangs will bring back outside hitter Melissa Langegger, who was named to the U Sports All-Rookie Team last season, and Aja Gyimah, who was a First Team OUA All-Star. The Mustangs have the weapons required to win a national championship.
With the football team set to kick off the 2017-18 Mustangs sports season on Aug. 27, students and fans alike are poised to witness another exciting year of success for Western athletics. And while these five teams are set for memorable seasons, there are sure to be other squads who may very well bring some hardware back to London.