OPINION: Veteran Panthers have been good leaders for teammates

Jason Malloy
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A pair of Islanders will pull on the UPEI Panthers jersey for the final time this weekend.

Captain Sam Sweet and assistant Laura Bradley are fifth-year Panthers on the women's hockey team. They are the final pieces remaining from UPEI's last Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship team.

They were freshmen in 2011-12 when the Panthers upset top-ranked St. FX in the semifinal and Mount Allison in the final of the AUS tournament in Halifax.

This year, the Panthers were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss Sunday to Dalhousie.

Sweet, a forward from O'Leary, and Bradley, a defenceman from St. Teresa, played a ton in Sunday's contest. They wanted to win and wanted to get their team to the playoffs, but it wasn't to be.

They both have played all 22 games this season and have been incredibly durable during their AUS careers.

Both are great athletes who represented the province at the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que. Sweet played on the volleyball team while Bradley patrolled centrefielder for the softball team. Sweet was also on the hockey team at the 2011 Games in Halifax.

Charlottetown's Maggie Grimmer will also play her final Panthers game this weekend. The fourth-year UPEI centre is graduating and will attend UNB in September to start law school.

The Panthers host St. FX today at 3 p.m. and Saint Mary's Sunday at 2 p.m.

The men's hockey team played its final regular season home game Friday, but it will host at least one playoff game.

The men's basketball team will not lose any players to graduation this year.

The women's team will see fifth-year graduates Katie Donahoe, Tamara Tompkins and Anne Kiberd play their final university home games this weekend while Elysia Drost will graduate in the spring.

Donahoe is the only one of the four who was on the Panthers 2-18 team in 2011-12.

Tompkins and Kiberd both transferred from other universities and have been key contributors to the team that went to the conference final last season while Drost has provided the team depth off the bench.

It's been easy to find Donahoe this season.

She is averaging 38 minutes a game, 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists. She is a veteran voice, a hard worker and when there's a loose ball Donahoe is likely in the mix.

Tompkins, a five-foot-seven guard, hasn't been afraid to drive to the paint and take a pounding from the larger forwards.

Kiberd is known for her outside shot, but a story coach Greg Gould shared sticks with me even more.

Kiberd missed practice earlier this season due to injuries. She felt like she was letting her teammates down.

Gould said they needed her ready for game day and that Kiberd had shown her mettle when, as a transfer student, she busted her butt in practice each and every day, knowing she wouldn't see the floor all season.

These athletes, regardless of where they played high school, have bled Panther green.

They are good in the classroom, good teammates and good citizens.

Women's hockey coach Bruce Donaldson pointed out his players practice daily, have fitness sessions three times a week and play 30 games, which includes out-of-province travel every other weekend.

"We put a lot of requirements on these players," he said. "You're expected to do the very best you can academically and be socially responsible."

While the university careers are coming to an end for these fine athletes, their impact on their teams will live on through the example they have set for their teammates.

 

Jason Malloy is The Guardian's sports editor. He can be reached at 629-6000 ext. 6023 or at jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca.

Organizations: Panthers, Atlantic University Sport, Islanders Canada Games

Geographic location: Halifax, Sherbrooke, Que, Charlottetown Saint Mary

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