© Phil Matusiewicz
Holland College athletics director Albert Roche, right, receives the Premier's Award from Health and Wellness Minister Robert Henderson at the recent Sport P.E.I. amateur sports awards ceremony in Charlottetown. The college's athletics department was named sports organization of the year following the recent successes of Hurricanes teams and athletes on the regional and national level.
If Albert Roche has a crowning glory as Holland College athletic director, it's the Hurricanes men's baseball team.
In its two seasons, it's reached the national collegiate baseball tourney twice, losing last fall in the final 4-1 to McGill, and Roche couldn't be prouder.
"Baseball to me was the (best). Eighteen of our guys were from P.E.I., while only six of their 25 players were from Quebec. I love the underdog stories," Rochesaid at the recent Sport P.E.I. awards after the Holland College athletics department received the Premier's Award for sports organization of the year in 2015.
The school, which only gained access to theAtlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) in 2006,has prospered on the field during its journey from fledgling program to conference juggernaut.
Its sports teams, once mired in the basement of their respective standings, now regularly sit atop the ACAA and have hosted national tourneys in women's soccer and men's volleyball.
The men's basketball team has won the last three ACAA crowns and women's basketball squad broke through with its first title last year after losing in the final two seasons ago.
The football team is a three-time defending Atlantic Football League (AFL) champ and the longtime golf program, which usually dominates the ACAA, won the school's first national title last fall in the men's competition.
The women's volleyball team, for years the league cellar-dwellers, reached the ACAA final last year and this season sit second at 17-3. Next month it hosts the women's national volleyball championship.
New sports like curling and cross-country are up and running and the women's hockey team leads the the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League following two seasons at the bottom of the standings.
Recently, Holland College brought cheerleading and dance as club teams under the athletics wing.
How has the school done it in an age of tightening sports budgets?
Roche chalks it up to an organizational will to use athletics, namely offering varsity sports competition and the lure of national tourney berths, as a draw for quality student-athletes.
And for Roche, the results have been more or less according to plan.
"It was all about building a business case for athletics," he said, but "we knew we'd take a pounding in trying to build the program."
And pounded it was.
In 2006-07, the men's and women's basketball teams combined for an 0-42 record. The women were outscored 1,544 to 698 while the men were done in 1,758 to 1,124. The women's worst result was a 91-29 opening-game loss to Mount Saint Vincent while the men's worst was a 114-33 thrashing by Mount Saint Vincent.
And it's lost a few sports and suffered a few bumps along the way.
Men's rugby has been kaput for years, the men's hockey team, which played at the junior C and B levels, was killed last year and the football team had its operations suspended for an internal review after an incident at a Charlottetown bar following its 2014 AFL title win.
But the department has survived and, said Roche, is well-guided by a long-standing concept.
"If you have passion, that's contagious."
The rest of the department includes Lynn Carr, Nadine Moore, Andrew Dobson, Daniel Cudmore and Lori-Beth Dwyer, who is also the women's volleyball head coach.
Holland College men's and women's sports teams:
Competing in ACAA
Women - Basketball, cross-county, curling, golf, soccer and volleyball.
Men - Basketball, cross-county, golf, soccer and volleyball.
Competing in other leagues
Women - Hockey (ECWHL)
Men - Baseball (CCBA Atlantic Conference) and football (AFL).
Women - Cheerleading and dance.
A look at the national and regional banners the Holland College Hurricanes have won:
2015 women's basketball CCAA bronze
2015 men's baseball CCBA silver
2014 men's golf CCAA gold
2013 men's basketball CCAA silver
2012 women's golf CCAA silver
2011 men's golf CCAA silver
2011 Men's soccer CCAA silver
2007 women's golf CCAA silver
2006 men's golf CCAA bronze
2015 women's basketball ACAA champions
2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 women's golf ACAA champions
2008, 2010, 2013 women's soccer ACAA champions
2014 men's baseball CCBA champions
2013, 2014, 2015 men's basketball ACAA champion
2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 men's football AFL champions
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 men's golf ACAA champions
2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 men's Soccer ACAA champions