Two teams, one ‘AA’ seed.
That was the predicament both the Columneetza Cougars and the Williams Lake Stags girls’ rugby teams faced preceding the B.C. High School Girls Rugby Championships from May 26-28 at Mill Bay’s Brentwood College.
During the North Central Zone Championship earlier in May, the Cougars won two games and lost one to the Stags to earn the ‘AA’ berth at provincials.
“Credit has to be given to Columneetza,” said Stags coach Tara Sherock. “They beat us two to one in the three-game series [at zones for the ‘AA’ seed]. They then played at a higher level against more competitive teams in the ‘AA’ tournament.”
With the loss to the Cougars at zones the Stags entered the tier 2 provincials.
This year’s B.C. girls rugby provincials were divided into three tiers of eight teams in ‘AAA,’ ‘AA,’ and tier 2 divisions.
At provincials, the Cougars didn’t really get a chance to get their feet wet before facing the No. 2 seed, Heritage Park of Mission, falling 62-0. Heritage Park then went on to go undefeated in the tournament, beating No. 1 seed Shawnigan Lake 3-0 in the final to win the ‘AA’ championship.
Next up, the Cougars fell to Merritt, 20-0, before being beaten by Brentwood College, 34-0, in their last match.
“We started slowly in the games versus Merritt and Brentwood College and ended up playing catch up for the rest of both games,” said Cougars coach Ryan Lee. “The scores don’t show that the girls played with great tenacity and toughness throughout.”
Lee said standout players were Jasmyn Niquidet, Alex Page, Carla Kluth and Giorgi Pritchard.
Niquidet, for her efforts, was selected to the President’s XV team at the tournament and invited by Team B.C. coaching staff to attend a Team B.C. tryout this weekend in North Vancouver from June 11-12.
Despite the scores, Lee said his team is just beginning to come into their own.
“We are a really young team comprised mostly of Grade 10 girls so the future looks bright as we have some great young athletes,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Stags — also featuring a roster comprised of several Grade 8 and 9 players — wrapped up a second-place finish in the tier 2 tournament.
“This team has outstanding, talented rugby players,” Sherlock said. “But I feel what truly makes them special is the way they play together as a team. The provincial championship is a senior tournament and the competitive teams have large rosters of Grade 11 and 12 girls.
“We travelled with 20 girls, eight of which were Grade 8 or 9, and to end up competing in the tier 2 gold medal game was a testament to how well the girls rallied together. The seniors played strong and led by example, and the juniors gained much experience and played above themselves.”
The Stags opened their tournament with a 41-12 win over the Valleyview Vikings. Try scorers were Erica Pfleiderer, Candice Duitshaever, Grade 8 Debra Bortolussi, Anne Butters (3) and Sheridan Davis (one try and three conversion kicks).
Next, the Stags downed Alberni 8-5.
“At half time it was 5-0 for them,” Sherlock said. “Anne [Butters] scored a try in the second half to tie it and during the last two minutes of the game Sheridan Davis made a penalty kick to put us in the final for gold.”
There, last year’s ‘AA’ tournament winner Robert Bateman knocked off the Stags, winning 30-0.
“They were a strong team,” Sherlock said.
“We played the best that we could play. Robert Bateman were just older and had more experienced, bigger girls.”
Sherlock added several Stags’ players had exceptional tournaments.
“Erica Pfleiderer captaiend the team by example, playing strong and consistent offensively and defensively throughout the tournament,” she said.
“Like the unsung hero that she has been all season, Melanie Dallow was a work horse and played like a champion all weekend.
“With the loss of team leader Alexis Myhre early in the first game Grade 9 Anne Butters stepped up her game in the fly-half position, which led to her being awarded the President’s XV jersey for MVP.”
The Stags also said their goodbyes to the team’s only Grade 12 player, Carmen Williams, and thanked her for her dedication to the team.