The Williams Lake Stags girls rugby team is the sixth ranked team in the province heading into this week’s Provincial Rugby Championships.
The Stags begin their tournament Thursday, May 23 against the third seed, Heritage Park, at the UBC Rugby Complex in Vancouver.
“We played them last year in our first game at provincials,” said Stags head coach Morley Wilson. “But last year we were the fifth seed and they were the fourth seed, and we had no spares. We lost that game in overtime.”
This year, Wilson said his squad is different.
“We lost a few key Grade 12s this year but I think our squad is more rounded,” he said.
“We have Sheridan Davis (fullback) and Anne Butters (standoff), both in Grade 11, who are the team leaders and they are the key players, but at the same time when they’re not there the other girls step up.”
Wilson said part of the key to this year’s success for the Stags has been the strength of the team’s junior players. The Stags also picked up five players from Columneetza secondary for the season because they didn’t field a team.
“Because we’re so young — we only have a couple grade 12s — next year, with the two schools coming together and all of the juniors coming over they’re all going to be in the program for a couple more years,” Wilson said.
That said, Wilson added his players hope to close out the season – the last year they’ll play as Stags — on a positive note.
“Right from the beginning we set the goal of provincials,” Wilson said.
“It’s been on their minds the whole season. But that said it’s a few-year plan.
“I said to the girls to not really worry about what the result is this year. If we finish eighth, whatever, we’ve got lots of Grade 8s and lots of Grade 9s and they’re all going to be even better next year after they get some more experience.
“It’s a longterm plan. It’s not just the goal for this year, it’s the goal for the next couple of years, and I think we can win it [provincials] in the three years.”
How the Stags finish at provincials will depend largely on the outcome of their first game.
“It’s all that first game,” Wilson said.
“If we win our first game we’re in the top four, if we win our second game we’re in the top two. Last year we started fifth and finished fifth because of that first game.”
After Thursday’s tilt with Heritage Park the Stags play again Friday, before playing their final game of the tournament Saturday.
“They’re a great bunch of girls,” he said.
“They support each other on and off the field, and it’s been a pleasure.”