This weekend, Queen’s University Homecoming festivities will coincide with a jam-packed three days of sporting action, as the 2022 OUA fall playoff season kicks into high gear for the Queen’s Gaels. Highlighting the weekend is a first-round football playoff matchup between Queen’s and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29, 2022 at Richardson Stadium.
The Gaels enter this weekend as the second-seeded team in the province, behind the Western Mustangs. Last Saturday, Queen’s chalked up an impressive 30-11 victory over the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in Waterloo. With the win, Queen’s finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, securing their spot in the playoffs.
This Saturday, the Gaels will face a Varsity Blues squad that is making its second consecutive playoff appearance. The two teams last met at the start of the regular season, with Queen’s downing Toronto 47-25 during their home opener on August 27. Despite the Gaels’ dominant performance several months ago, Queen’s head coach Steve Snyder expects it will be an improved U of T team arriving in Kingston this weekend.
“We had a lot of respect for their performance when we played them earlier in the year, which seems like a long, long time ago now,” said Snyder. “They’ve actually put together a really solid season and won some big games, in particular their last one of the season: that was a ‘win and they’re in’ type of scenario.” Just like Queen’s, Toronto finished its regular season with an impressive victory last weekend, taking down the McMaster Marauders 13-10 in Hamilton.
“I think [Toronto has] a deep sense of belief in their program right now,” Snyder continued. “They have a lot of really good players at critical positions. I think their line of scrimmage [is] the best it’s been [in] a long time. So this is a team that’s more than capable of beating us and playing really well against any opponent in the country.”
As the second seed heading into the playoffs, the Gaels are guaranteed to have home field advantage through the first two rounds. Considering that this Saturday’s game coincides with the university’s Homecoming celebrations, Coach Snyder anticipates a strong home crowd at Richardson. “It should be a lot of fun for everybody and create a great atmosphere. We do a lot of things this time of year just to acknowledge the alumni and make sure we’re celebrating that and teaching our guys about that… Tthis being a playoff game, it definitely has a bit of a different vibe to it. But don’t get me wrong: we’re going to make sure that the spirit of Queen’s is at Richardson Stadium and that everybody knows it.”
Despite the fact that playoff games bring an increased sense of pressure, especially as the Gaels need to win from here on out to continue advancing toward the Yates Cup, Snyder says not much has changed from the team’s usual approach heading into game day. “We’ve created a plan for the entire year, every single day; we created that back in the spring and summer and we’re sticking to it now. This week, the way it was set up long ago is something we’re sticking to.”
However, the coach acknowledges that there will be some differences as well. “The big change, I think, for everybody in the program, [is] knowing that we’re playing for keeps now. If we don’t win, our season’s over, so it kind of changes your priority.”
This weekend, the Gaels will once again be without starting quarterback James Keenan, who sustained an injury earlier in the season and has yet to return to the lineup. “[He’s] still not practicing at full [capacity] yet,” Snyder said. “So right now we’re kind of working with the other guys, and I think that’s likely the direction we’re going to be heading in.” Kingston native Alex Vreeken is expected to make his fourth consecutive start for Queen’s in Keenan’s place. So far, the young quarterback has a perfect record for the Gaels.
Saturday afternoon’s football game is set for 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium. There will be limited parking available at the stadium, but Queen’s will be offering a free shuttle between 12 noon and 1 p.m. to transport fans from Tindall Field to Richardson.
Women’s teams take centre stage on Friday and Sunday
While Saturday’s football game is likely to be the main attraction of Homecoming Weekend, two additional sports will also be in the spotlight, as the women’s rugby and soccer teams compete in playoff games on Friday and Sunday respectively. On Friday at 7 p.m., Queen’s will host the Guelph Gryphons in a battle for the OUA Women’s Rugby Championship at Nixon Field.
The two teams last faced each other on October 1 in a contest that saw Queen’s earn an impressive 45-18 win. The Gaels come into Friday’s game following a remarkable seven-game winning streak, the most recent of which came last Saturday against the Western Mustangs in the OUA semifinals. Friday’s contest will be a rematch of last year’s OUA Championship game, which Guelph won 32-23. Queen’s comes into this weekend’s championship match as the top-ranked team in the country.
Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon, the Queen’s women’s soccer team begins its playoff run with a second-round contest against the Nipissing Lakers. The two squads have already met twice this season; Queen’s won the first game 5-1 on September 25, and the teams played to a 1-1 tie on October 7. The Gaels are currently the second-ranked team in Canada and will be looking for a strong showing in front of the home crowd at Richardson Stadium. Sunday’s game is set for 1 p.m.