ABBOTSFORD, B.C. (from Victoria Vikes) – The University of Victoria Vikings women’s rugby team continued their dominance of the Canada West Women’s Sevens Series, going a perfect 6-0 at the second stop on the circuit Sunday at the MRC Sports Complex.
Playing under sunny skies at MRC Sports Complex, the Vikes capped their run to the title with victories over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (31-7), Fraser Valley Cascades (57-0) and Lethbridge Pronghorns (21-19). Their overall record on the sevens series this season is 12-0, and they take a comfortable lead in the aggregate points standings into the series finale, which they’ll be host for on Feb. 24-25 at Wallace Field.
Paige Farries (Red Deer, Alta.) had a pair of tries in the win over UBC, with Emily Belchos (Innisfil, Ont.), Chanelle Edwards-Challenger (Calgary) and Renee Gonzales (Scarborough, Ont.) adding one each. Kara Galbraith (Ladysmith, B.C.) kicked three converts.
Against Fraser Valley, McKenzie Pusch (Edmonton) scored four tries, with Sasha Guedes (Ottawa) adding a pair. Contributing one try each were Edwards-Challenger, Julia Folk (Regina) and Jess Neilson (North Vancouver, B.C.). Guedes and Neilson kicked three converts each.
Belchos with two and Gurpreet Dhaliwal (Abbotsford) accounted for the tries against Lethbridge, with Galbraith converting all three major scores.
“Overall, it was a great tournament for us,” Vikes coach Brittany Waters said. “A bit more inconsistent than the last tournament in Edmonton, but we were trying to implement a lot more things, so it was a bit of analysis paralysis for the girls throughout the tournament. But they executed some of the things we brought in over the last couple weeks very well. Day 2 was much better, and that’s really all you can ask for.”
“We’re really excited to have the final tournament at UVic in front of our home crowd, and for our girls to put in another series of great performances. We’re looking to improve each tournament, so we know we’ll be better for the next one.”
A total of 13 different Vikes put their name on the score sheet over the weekend, as the team’s offence continues to be key during their current 12-game winning streak.
“We have a lot of depth this season and everyone has stepped up and contributed to the team’s success,” Waters said. “It’s important that we use these tournaments to develop younger players as well as compete to win. We have been able to try different combinations and get everyone quality playing time.”
A two-point victory over Lethbridge to end the tournament was by far the closest game that the Vikes have played in this season, as they have now outscored their opponents by 320 points through their 12 games of action.
“The team is playing with a lot of confidence and belief in their skills, experience and understanding of the sevens game,” said Waters. “We implemented more attacking options for this tournament and the players did a good job of reading what is in front of them and using all the tools they have. We still have a lot to work on, but there were some very strong passages of play both defensively and on attack.”
Finishing second through seventh, respectively, were the Calgary Dinos (4-2), Alberta Pandas (4-2), Lethbridge (3-3), UBC (3-3), Fraser Valley (1-5) and Thompson Rivers WolfPack (0-6). Ties are broken based on head-to-head results.
UFV’s first hosting opportunity in the Canada West Women’s Rugby Sevens Series was highlighted by the team’s first victory. The Cascades picked up a 27-15 win over Canada West rugby newcomer Thompson Rivers WolfPack in their opening game. Mackenzie Fowler led the way with a pair of tries and a convert, and Shalaya Valenzuela, Mackenzie Braun and Meghan Wellis each added one try apiece in the victory.
Afterward, UFV head coach Jen Ross said playing host to a Canada West tourney is a big step for her program as it continues to grow in its second year of competition.
“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to since it started last year – to be able to put ourselves out in front of the UFV community, bring the local rugby supporters in and let them see why we’re so excited about having rugby at UFV,” she said. “From my perspective, it just makes us hungrier to build the program and expand it, and get more of our youth involved and show them all the benefits of playing at a university level.
“The win is great – it’s a reward for all the hard work we’re putting in. But it also keeps them hungry, because one win is never enough.”
The Pronghorns had accrued a flawless 3-0 record on Saturday, but dropped all three of their Sunday games to slip to fourth place. Their rivals from Alberta, the Dinos and Pandas, both picked up a pair of wins on Sunday – including head-to-head triumphs over the Pronghorns – to overhaul them in the tourney standings.
In the overall standings, the Vikes (20 points) hold the lead, with Calgary (14) and Lethbridge (12) their closest pursuers.