For the third consecutive year the Williams Lake Hustlers marched away from the Stampede Rugby Tournament as champions.
This year, however, it was more than winning a coveted belt buckle. They dedicated their victory to fellow Hustler and friend Rayel MacDonald, who was struck and killed by a vehicle earlier this year.
Hustlers player and member of Canada’s national women’s team, Kayla Moleschi, said MacDonald gave everyone inspiration.
“We had something worth fighting for this year,” Moleschi said, following the Hustlers’ 43-0 drubbing of Capilano in the final. “It wasn’t just to win a buckle, it was more than that. It was deep in our hearts — we’re wearing it on our sleeves and she’s pushed everyone through. We’d be tired and she’d pick us up. Everyone just kept on playing.”
The Hustlers had just one try scored against them the entire weekend, finishing with six wins and no losses.
The Hustlers beat KABB (Kamloops and Abbotsford) 37-0 to advance to the final Sunday morning using unmatched tenacity, toughness and speed to walk over their opponents.
Paul Carnes, coach of the Hustlers, said the play of Claire Lawrence, Moleschi, Krystle Carpenter, Sheridan Davis, Jasmyn Niquidet and Carola Kreis was outstanding.
“I’ve had these girls for three years now and each year they improve,” he said. “They’ve matured so well as far as playing ability, and I’m very proud of them. It’s quite emotional [this year] for them. But they’re professional about it. They have a game plan and they’re easy to coach.”
This year’s most sportsmanlike award, presented to Capilano player Ashley Robinson, was renamed to the Rayel MacDonald Award. Moleschi was also presented the women’s MVP award.
The men’s side saw three Williams Lake Rustlers teams in action — one old boys team, one younger team and a team of experienced veterans.
The old boys beat Semiahmoo 40-0 before losing to Abbotsford, 15-5. Most sportsmanlike player went to Williams Lake’s Trent Domich, while MVP was awarded to Abbotsford’s Jason Copp.
Williams Lake’s younger team opened with a 29-7 loss to Capilano and a 17-0 defeat to Surrey; however, bounced back to win 22-12 over Courtney in the consolation semifinal.
The Rustlers experienced team narrowly missed a spot in the tournament semifinal, dropping a tough contest, 19-17, to the Meralomas. Prior to that they lost to Abbotsford, 19-17, before beating Courtney, 32-7.
In the consolation final Williams Lake beat Prince George/SFU 34-29 in overtime for the win. MVP went to Williams Lake’s Riley Ilnicki.
The tournament, held at the Ottoman Drive rugby fields, saw Capilano beat the Meralomas, 21-17, for the men’s title.