Five lakecity rugby players etched their names in Canadian university women’s rugby history this past week when they suited up for their respective teams at the USports Women’s Rugby Championships.
Laura Pfleiderer, Emma Pfleiderer and Skye Forcier for the Acadian Axewomen, Carleigh Walters for the St. Francis Xavier X-Women and Emma Feldinger for the UBC Thunderbirds joined the nation’s top rugby players in Ottawa at Matt Anthony Field for the tournament, which ran Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.
When the dust settled after the tournament’s conclusion, despite neither of the three teams winning the nation’s top prize, two players from the Cariboo — Alexis Creek’s Feldinger, and Laura of Rose Lake — were awarded All-Canadian All-Star Awards. Feldinger was garnered All-Canadian First Team All-Star, while Laura was named to the All-Canadian Second Team All-Stars.
Feldinger — in her second year with the Thunderbirds — and UBC, who entered the tournament as the CanWest champions, fell in a heartbreaker to finish its 2019 season versus Walters and the StFX X-Women in a tightly-contested match, 26-24, after dropping its first game to Laval, 32-12.
The consolation final, meanwhile, saw Walters and the X-Women squaring off against Forcier, Emma and Laura and the Axewomen with the lakecity represented on both sides.
After wasting no time getting to work, Acadia found itself up 20-19 at the half.
In the second half, Walters helped the X-Women get back on track after polishing off a series of rushes up the field to score her first try of the day, helping the X-Women go up 31-20 just 10 minutes into the half.
Moments later, Emma scored a try to help get the Axewomen within four points, however, the X-Women pulled ahead late in the game to seal the deal.
For Walters, Emma Pfleiderer, Laura Pfleiderer, and Forcier, the tournament proved an emotional one as the four lakecity rugby products laced up their cleats to close the final chapter of their university rugby careers after four seasons at their respective schools.
Forcier said the Axewomen’s win in the team’s second game versus the Calgary Dinos was a historic one as they became the first Acadia team to win a game at a USport nationals.
She noted the consolation final loss to the X-Women was a tough one.
“Pulling off a win would have felt like a really good way to end our careers, but that is the nature of sports,” Forcier said. “Four years ago when we decided to pack up and move across the country I don’t think we had any way of knowing what we had in store. Going forward it’s going to be tough to accept our university careers are over, however, I think we’ll all stay involved with the sport at some level.”
Laura agreed, noting each player on the field “gassed their tanks,” as, for many, it was their final university games.
“The team has presented me with so many opportunites in terms of learning and setting a platform for me so succeed,” she said. “The relationships I’ve formed with my teammates will be the hardest to leave. No doubt I’ll stay in touch but it won’t be the same as seeing them all in practices, at workouts, on bus rides and being on the field each day.”
She noted she was honoured to be named an all-star at nationals.
“The thing I’ll remember most is the feeling and atmosphere of the locker room pre game,” Laura said. “I’ll never be able to hear the song Freaks by Timmy Trumpet as just another song.”
Having the opportunity to face off against a former Williams Lake rugby teammate in Walters, who they also met in the final of the Atlantic University Sport final just the week prior, was another highlight of the tournament for the group, Laura said.
“There was a joke going around that our consolation final was an AUS championship, round two,” Laura said. “The night before we played StFX us four Williams Lake girls got together and reminisced on our time playing rugby together from high school until now, and that this has to be the last game we play against each other and, from now on, we play on the same team.
“It’s amazing how Williams Lake is represented through rugby in three different and, in the past, four universities at one time at nationals.”
Forcier credited the support they received back home in Williams Lake for allowing them to chase their rugby dreams across the country.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our high school and club programs,” Forcier said.
“As well we have lots of inspiration from Rustlers like Jake Ilnicki and Kayla Moleschi who are playing at the national level right now.”
In the championship it was Laval, for the first time in the school’s history, bringing home the hardware, defeating Queens, 22-14. Full results from the tournament are available online at usports.ca/en/championships/rugby/f.