Women’s rugby players during training camp ahead of the new season. Photo: Enrico Baliello.
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Bronze won’t cut it this year for U of O’s national powerhouse

Coming into their 2016 campaign, the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team is prepared to build upon their stellar season last year and make another run at a national title.

Last season, the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team kicked off their year with a glorious 87-0 win over Sherbrooke and never slowed down.

Throughout the year, as the team posted a perfect 7-0 regular season record, they earned a first-place ranking in the national Top 10, never slipping below second after their first week of competition.

Their stellar regular season was capped off with a thrilling 25-17 victory over Concordia in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship game on Oct. 31. The team was able to capture back-to-back RSEQ titles at home on Matt Anthony Field before setting their sights on Kingston, where they chased a national title at Queen’s University.

At the National Championships, the effort of stars Irene Patrinos, Simone Savary, and Erin Van Gulik shone as the team captured their first ever national bronze medal, capping off the best year in the team’s history.

Over the summer, after being named Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Coach of the Year, head coach Jennifer Boyd set her sights on national rugby competition.

In early July she coached Canada to a second-place finish at the World University Championships in Wales and brought along three of her Gee-Gees players, centres Samantha Alli and Dria Bennett, and fullback Irene Patrinos.

More recently, Boyd headed the Canadian U20 national team on a tour to England in late August, bringing along two more Gees in flanker Emily Babcock and lock Alex Ellis.

Ahead of the team’s home opener against Université de Montréal on Sept. 3, the team is hard at work in training camp, preparing for a conference title defence and possibly another crack at a national championship.

The Gee-Gees have proven to handle their RSEQ opponents with ease over the past handful of years, and along with a favourable schedule—including only two trips to Montreal and one to Sherbrooke—the Gees are the unequivocal favourites to three-peat as Quebec champs.

One of the team’s veteran leaders, and 2015 CIS second-team All-Canadian, Simone Savary has the utmost confidence coming into the season.

“We can expect a great season, we are two-time RSEQ Champions, and undefeated for two seasons. We are going to repeat that again,” said the fifth-year prop. “We have some new people coming in with high energy, high pace. We want to keep playing fast rugby and go nationals again this year.”

With their extremely attainable goals set in place, the team seems prepared to face whatever this season might throw at them. If they can only win one more game this year, the U of O can have something they haven’t in a long time—the national champion title.