After winning the 2017 U Sports women’s championship, the Gee-Gees are looking to shine again on home turf. Photo: Parker Townes.
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Gee-Gees women’s rugby preparing themselves for exciting season

After hosting the U Sports women’s soccer championship tournament this past November, Gee-Gees Field will be the stage for another national championship event.

From Oct. 31-Nov. 3, the University of Ottawa will be the home of the 2019 U Sports women’s rugby nationals.

In addition, the University of Ottawa was selected in a joint bid with Carleton University and the Ottawa Sport and Entertainment Group to host the 2020 U Sports men’s and women’s basketball Final 8 tournaments.

“What hosting a nationals does is gives our students athletes an exciting opportunity. It enhances their experience,” University of Ottawa Sports Services director Sue Hylland said. “It gives our university more profile and visibility—it gives our students, teachers, and employees here a chance to engage in something that is unique. Hosting is something we want to do more of.”

Having the University of Ottawa host the 2018 U Sports national championship for women’s soccer was a huge success involving a number of people. From the team and staff themselves, to the organizers and volunteers, there were a number of things that came together to make the event run smoothly.

“There are trillions of details that you have to get done when you’re hosting something like this,” Hylland said. “We’ll implement many of the same things because it worked, but we’re going to tweak it with the learnings we had.”

Just a week after their own national competition, the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team, along with their head coach Jen Boyd, were able to see the soccer event themselves.

“It was really amazing to see the standard that was set by the university in hosting our first national championship in a really long time,” Boyd said.

In the final game against the Trinity Western Spartans, the Gee-Gees women’s soccer team were able to finish off their dominant season with a win to claim the championship on their home field.

“Winning soccer nationals was powerful,” Hylland said. “It was like a dream—you couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Along with the benefits to the university, hosting the rugby national championships will bring attention to the sport.

“It’s really nice to bring rugby to Ottawa,” Boyd said. “It’s been a really great place to learn and play the game and I think this will grow the game in the city, and that’s probably what I’m most excited about.”

In recent years, the Gee-Gees women’s rugby program has made a number of accomplishments under Boyd. This includes a national championship in 2017, a silver medal in 2016, and bronze medals in 2015 and 2018. In the past five years, the team has claimed the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship five times.

Tori Wyman, a player who will be going into her fifth year on the team, has been there to experience all these successes. In the 2018 season, the RSEQ recognized her as a first-team all-star.

“When I came into it, I didn’t expect to do what I did. It’s pretty amazing what the team has been able to accomplish in the last four years,” Wyman said.

“Jen has really prepared us, she just puts so much into the program. She’s always thinking about rugby and thinking about ways we can improve. She’s always thinking about what we can do next, what we can change to make it better, and it’s really shown.”

Hylland echoed that sentiment.

“Those girls are tough—they have a great coach who works them hard and is demanding, but she cares about them. I think she’s built this culture of what these kids need to do to be successful,” Hylland said.

Tylo Borsboom, a rookie in the 2018 season, credits much of her growth to Boyd and her teammates.

“Coach Jen has every base covered and then some. She has a huge amount of experience. I have learned more this year than I have in all my previous years of rugby combined. The standard that she holds her players to both on and off the field assures that nothing is left to chance,” Borsboom said. “On this team I am surrounded by talented and hard-working athletes, many of which I look up to. Training and playing alongside rugby players of their caliber helps me to push myself to work harder and be better.”

In 2018, nine players earned spots on RSEQ all-star teams. The conference’s rookie of the year title went to Claire Gallagher, who had another big role to play on the team.

“I have definitely improved a lot as a player since being here. Our coaching staff has so much knowledge of the game to help us improve, and our team environment of always expecting more each time we step on the field constantly makes me a better player,” Gallagher said.

Coming off their bronze medal finish in 2018, the team will be looking to improve their game and claim the U Sports national championship on home turf in the upcoming season.

“We’ve never hosted before, so there’s an element of unknowing what that’ll be like and how that will impact results,” Boyd said. “Overall, we’re overjoyed to be able to play in front of our friends and family—the girls were really excited when they heard.”

Georgia Stewart, another player who will be entering her fourth year in the 2019 season, expressed the team’s excitement as well as their desire to perform.

“We obviously want to do well at nationals, but to do that we need to work hard this offseason. We’re very excited but we need to stay focused,” Stewart said.

The rugby team will be back in action in the fall. Until then, they’ll be preparing for the exciting season ahead of them.