Sept. 8, 2023

Big pre-season has Dinos field hockey team poised to make noise in Canada West

Veteran midfielder Madison Gaffney optimistic team can take down annual powerhouses UBC and UVic
Madison Gaffney
Midfielder Madison Gaffney in a scrimmage game against the Guelph Gryphons on September 2, 2023. Chris Lindsey

A pre-season tour through New York and a home sweep of the Guelph Gryphons has the University of Calgary Dinos field hockey team primed for a breakout season.

“I’m quite excited to see what happens this year,” says Madison Gaffney, a third-year midfielder on the team.

The team came together quickly, since most of the new recruits and returning players hail from British Columbia, so the team didn’t have a formal practice until they landed in New York for the pre-season.

Gaffney says this led to a rough first 15 minutes of their first game, but the team steadily improved as they got used to playing with each other. The Dinos would ultimately take three out of five scrimmages against NCAA teams at Molloy, Adelphi, and Hofstra.

Two wins over Guelph where they outscored the Gryphons — a team that regularly contends for championships in Ontario — by a combined score of 10-2 has the new-look Dinos ready for a breakout season after a few down seasons.

“We’re definitely coming off of a couple of low years,” says Gaffney, a 2021 Canada West All-Star and the team’s lone goal scorer in the 2022 season.

However, 2023 could be a turning point, according to Gaffney. She says head coach Jenn Swagar has really helped the team pick up their game and has been great for the program, and a bunch of new faces should bring a renewed energy to the squad.

“We’ve got a lot of rookies this year, so there’s going to be a big turnover with who’s on the field.”

With a younger group coming in, Gaffney is happy to embrace a leadership role, having been with the program since 2019.

Field hockey head coach Jenn Swagar huddles with the team during a scrimmage against the Guelph Gryphons on September 2, 2023.

Field hockey head coach Jenn Swagar huddles with the team during a scrimmage against the Guelph Gryphons on Sept. 2, 2023.

Chris Lindsey

“I just love this team so much, we’ve got really great girls, and everyone wants to work hard for each other and themselves,” she says.

Chemistry will be key as the underdog Dinos look to dethrone Canada West powerhouses University of British Columbia and University of Victoria.

Due to their ability to train outdoors year-round, UBC and UVic have been able to dominate the conference, and many of their players play on the national and junior national teams.

However, the success of the pre-season has Gaffney and the team aiming for the top spot.

“I think we have a really good shot at going to the championship this year,” Gaffney says.

It would be a great send-off for Gaffney, who will finish her Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology and head west to Vancouver to continue her education and look to land a spot training with the Canadian national field hockey team.

Despite a lack of recent success on the field, the Dinos program has done an excellent job at development, with graduates of the program having opportunities to play in Europe, Australia, and for the junior national and senior national teams, including Gaffney’s close friend Melanie Scholz, who is currently training with the national team.

Gaffney only started playing club-level field hockey in her final year of high school and will now look to secure a spot on the national team just five years later.

“I think you can really see the development in the Dinos program,” she says.

“Even though we don’t have the wins to show it, we really produce some great players.”

Gaffney and the Dinos field hockey team begin their 2023 Canada West campaign on Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. when they host the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at Hawkings Field. The game is free for everyone to attend.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.