Thunderbirds: Sandhu nets historic field hockey finish

UBC wins fourth straight CIS field hockey championship

Record: 16 CIS championships

Record: 4 consecutive CIS championships

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Record: 1 player to appear in five CIS championships

When you’re as accomplished as the women’s field hockey program at UBC, one record leads to more records.

The storied Thunderbirds won their 16th McCrae Cup at the CIS championships this weekend when they shutout the host University of Toronto Blues 2-0. The win was their fourth consecutive title, a CIS record since the inaugural tournament in 1975.

Poonam Sandhu, a fifth-year T-bird and John Oliver graduate, scored the winning goal against the Blues. She is the only player in CIS history to be on five championship teams. She sat out the season in 2010, the last time the Thunderbirds didn’t win the McCrae Cup.

She did it by picking off a pass in the Blues defensive end and, after slipping past the last defender, capitalized.

“I saw her look inside to make that pass and I went for it,” said Sandhu, a midfielder with UBC and the national women’s team. “I made one move around the defender and it was just one on one with the gaolie after that.”

Until the title game, the Blues were undefeated and had beaten UBC earlier in the draw.

“Scoring that goal was the most amazing feeling ever,” said Sandhu. “My team played so well, so it was so easy to just put it in for them. Coming into this tournament, we were definitely an underdog because of the age difference. Coming out of last year we lost 11 players and this year we had a really young team but I think we did so well from the beginning of the season to now.”

This season marked the first for Robin D’Abreo, the head coach who stepped in after Hash Kanjee retired after 21 years and nine McCrae Cup wins.

Sandhu trains with D’Abreo on the national team and she was familiar with his use of technology and video.

“I have had a really good relationship with him but for the rest of the girls, it was a pretty big change in terms of style. Hash has a very traditional style but Robin, he brings something new. It was a good change and that’s a big reason why we won, honestly.”

The CIS championship on Nov. 2 championship was the seventh gold-medal meeting between UBC and Toronto. The T-birds UBC hold a 5-2 advantage.

“It feels really good. I am so proud of the girls,” said D’Abreo. “This team has improved so much since we first started. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s a credit to the girls. They completely bought in to every single thing that the coaching staff put out there.”

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mstewart@vancourier.com

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