Williams Lake’s Krystle Carpenter can’t help but feel a little bit sad her University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat women’s rugby team’s season is over, despite winning a silver medal in the BC Club Rugby Tier 2 League recently.
The 23-year-old former Williams Lake secondary high school rugby standout, who will graduate this year with a degree in human kinetics from UBCO, was a member of the Heat’s inaugural squad, and has continued to lead and captain the team over its past three seasons.
“It is a bit sad,” Carpenter said. “I’m the oldest player on the team now and I feel like I helped grow this team and now I’ll be leaving it.”
Carpenter and the Heat are coming off the team’s most successful season — a second-place finish in the BCRL after a 25-12 loss to Abbotsford in the championship final.
It was the first time the team was made up entirely of university students.
To reach the final the Heat, with Carpenter playing a significant role in the scrum-half position, outscored their opponents 170-0 in their last three games to finish the season with six wins and one loss.
“It’s almost like we were a brand new team from the start of the season,” Carpenter said.
“It’s amazing how far this team has come. At first we were really dependent on a few players but everyone’s learned to play with each other.”
In the semifinal over the Britannia Rugby Club Lions, Carpenter scored three tries, helping the Heat to a 43-0 win in late November to advance to the final.
Heat head coach Rob O’Brien said Carpenter has been a driving factor in the team’s progression over the years.
“Krystle is a force on the field,” he said. “She is both a constant offensive threat as well as a punishing defender. However, her importance to the team goes far beyond this.
“Her teammates would literally go to war for her, because they know she would do the same for them. Even though she will be hard to replace, she has provided key mentorship to the younger players.”
Looking back, Carpenter said she couldn’t have asked for a better run with the team, which will resume women’s sevens play in the spring.
“I’ve loved it,” she said. “The first two years we were just a sevens team — the first year we didn’t even have to make cuts — and now we’ve got a full team.”
She also has a message for young rugby players in Williams Lake.
“I want the girls in Williams Lake to know you can go out and play at a higher level,” she said, noting she plans to pursue playing with a New Zealand rugby team after she graduates this April.
“There are opportunities out there.”