Toronto,ON- The Ontario Tech Ridgebacks are truly an interesting program. Situated just outside Toronto, snugly in the corner of North Oshawa, the school has had a less decorated athletic history but just always seemingly puts out strong teams in a variety of sports. In 2019-2020 the Ridgebacks showed off a new addition to their athletic programming as had a strong performance by a staple.
The Introduction of the Ridgebacks Basketball Program
It may seem weird to talk about the best moments of the year and mention a pair of teams that combined for two total wins but the Ridgebacks Basketball Program made history in its own right as it set foot on the court for the first time in 2019-2020. The season was not about winning so much as it was establishing footing in the OUA which realigned its divisions for Ontario Tech as they became the 18th basketball program in the province.
On the Men’s Side the 1st star of team would be Graddy Kanku. The Freshman Communications and Digital Media Studies Major would pace the Ridgebacks with 20.4 points per game along with 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He only got better as the season went on as by the end in five February games, he had pushed his numbers up to 24.8/6.2/4.0 per game. His efforts would end up rewarded with a slot on the OUA All-Rookie team and the future of Ridgebacks men’s basketball looks solid with him as a building block.
On the season the Ridgebacks would struggle early and often, losing their first eleven straight games by 13 points or more each night. Finally though on January 13th 2020 in a game against fellow struggling squad the Algoma Thunderbirds the Ridgebacks finally got that elusive first W.
It was the only win for the team but as we’ve said 2019-2020 was meant to serve as a start for this new basketball program to take hold in the OUA.
The same can be said on all fronts for the Ridgebacks Women’s Team. As Head Coach Christa Eniojukan put best when she was first hired “to have the chance to help build, develop, and execute a successful basketball program with the Ridgebacks is an absolute honour.” That meant a first season of building up a successful base for the team’s foundation.
Much like the men’s team, the women had a standout athlete in Dalyssa Fleurgin. The first year Criminology & Justice Studies major lead the team with 11.1 points per game and just under 6 rebounds whilst also showing valuable skills on the defensive end, finishing in the top 15 in the OUA with 34 steals.
Much like the Men’s team the Women also struggled out of the gate. They lost every game of first semester, routinely in blowout fashion but there were two stronger showings that stood out among the losses. An unfortunate heartbreaking 55-54 loss to the U of T Varsity Blues in November, where they managed to go into the 4th quarter holding a six point lead, but saw U of T claw back to win. The other strong showing game against the same Algoma Thunderbirds where Dalyssa Fleurgin went off for a season-high 24 points but just came up short as the Ridgebacks fell 75-70.
That first win took a while but finally came on February 1st against the Waterloo Warriors as thanks to three players scoring in double digits the Ridgebacks would take their first win 77-70.
For both basketball teams in the Ontario Ridgeback program, 2019-2020 can be deemed a strong success because it introduced the program to the OUA and laid a foundation for a team that can only go up from here.
A Soccer Superstar in the Making
For Ontario Tech Men’s Soccer, the 2019 season was one where success was not decided with just the results on the scoresheet but instead in the potential country-wide star who made his dazzling debut for the Ridgebacks.
Fadi Salback began his first season at OTU scoring 11 minutes into an eventual 2-1 loss to the Carleton Ravens but from that point on Salback did not stop scoring. He ended the season with an incredible 16 goals in just 14 games for the Ridgebacks, leading all of Canada and setting the Ridgebacks single season record in the process.
This incredible season rewarded Salback with OUA Rookie of the Year, OUA First Team All-Star, and U Sports All-Rookie Team Honours (becoming the first Men’s Soccer Ridgeback to ever receive the award).
Overall on the season outside of Salback, the Ridgebacks finished with another relatively solid year. Their 7-2-5 record affixed them into the 4th slot in the OUA East division and gave them a 1st Round date with the Queen’s Gaels. A 1-0 win launched them to the Quarterfinals against the top seeded Carleton Ravens who unfortunately ended the Ridgeback’s year defeating them 5-2.
It was a fascinating season for the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. They didn’t win a Provincial Title but they did lay some important groundwork, in building the foundation of a title contender in their new basketball program and seemingly finding one of the best new USports Soccer athletes as well.