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Women’s rugby team claims confidence will take them to the playoffs this year

The year 2010 marked the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team’s fifth Quebec Students Sports Federation (QSSF) semifinal loss. After succumbing to a crushing 33-5 defeat against the Concordia University Stingers, the Gees (3-3) vowed to train harder and make it past that silver hurdle.

While their goal is to make it into the playoffs, the team has decided they would rather focus on their skills as athletes than concentrate on the idea of winning—and that will be what helps them to break that semifinal barrier.

“The style of game that we play is largely unstructured, which means that our players must be able to think on their feet—reading, reacting, and responding to what they see unfolding in front of them,” explained head coach Suzanne Chaulk in an email to the Fulcrum.

“This is a more challenging style to learn, but one that, once mastered, is also very difficult to defend. It requires intelligent and mobile athletes, and we have been building just such a roster for the past three years.”

The women’s rugby team suffered from two serious and unrecoverable injuries during the off-season, including fourth-year centres Adora Quan, who has a broken pelvis due to an unrelated accident, and  Janine MacKay, who tore her Achilles tendon last spring. Their training camp is welcoming 20 new athletes in order to replace the graduated players, as well as Quan and MacKay.

“We have some great rookies this year,” said Sarah Meng, returning fourth-year fullback and captain of the team. “That is going to be our one strength—our unity. The new athletes are going to make a real impact.”

Chaulk explained that the infusion of rookie and veteran blood will create an unstoppable team.

“While we will probably be adding more new players than we might normally, this current crop of rookies is exceptional and [will] bring a wealth of experience, including at the provincial and national team levels.

“We also have a few older grad student-athletes in the mix, which means that we’ll be able to balance the higher rookie numbers with a high degree of experience and maturity,” she added.

It is this combination of talent that has ignited the Gees’ hopes of gaining the QSSF title. After losing the semifinal round last-year, the Garnet and Grey travelled to Peterborough to watch the Stingers compete for the gold. After witnessing their defeat to the Queen’s Golden Gaels—a team the Gees had beaten in the pre-season—the U of O women’s rugby team is more confident than ever.

“Although we came close to beating Concordia last year, seeing Queen’s defeat them in the final round encouraged us. It gave us the confidence we [need] to get past the semifinals this season,” said Meng.

According to Chaulk, this confidence is the key ingredient to their success and will lead the team to accomplishing their goal—to ultimately go to, and win, their conference finals.

-Katherine DeClerq