For a small community, Williams Lake and the Cariboo will have large representation this week at the 2019 U Sports Women’s Rugby Championships.
The battle for the Canadian university women’s rugby top prize will take place at the University of Ottawa from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 at Matt Anthony Field, and will see five Williams Lake players competing for their respective three teams.
Skye Forcier and twin sisters Emma Pfleiderer and Laura Pfleiderer will suit up for the Acadia Axewomen, Carleigh Walters will look to help the St. Francis Xavier X-Women defend their national championship from last season and Emma Feldinger of Alexis Creek will help lead the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds into its first nationals.
Earlier this month Feldinger and the Thunderbirds, for the first time in the school’s history, claimed the Can West title with a win over the Calgary Dinos, who were searching for their fourth straight Can West title.
At the tournament, Feldinger was named a Can West All-Star for back-row players.
“It felt great to win Can West,” she said. “The other teams had kind of counted us out of the running so it was fantastic to prove to them that we are the best in the west. In the game against Calgary we went in being very nervous but we had nothing to lose. We knew we could beat them.”
Going into nationals, Feldinger said the team is once again looking to embrace its underdog status and use it to the team’s advantage.
“It’s uncharted territory so we are just going to leave everything on the field and hopefully things work out,” she said.
This past Saturday Forcier, Emma and Laura laced up their cleats to take on Walters and the X-Women for the Atlantic University Sport Title. There, Walters and the X-Women picked up the win, coming back after being down at the half 17-12. As the top two teams in the east, they will represent their region this week at nationals.
Emma, Laura and Skye, who are playing in their final season at Acadia, all said they’re looking forward to the experience of competing one more time for a shot at a U Sports title.
“I’m very excited to be headed to nationals in Ottawa,” Emma said. “And I’m honoured to play my fourth year with an amazing group of friends and athletes in hopes of medalling at nationals. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience at Acadia.”
Forcier added the season to date has been filled with different emotions for herself and the twins.
“Every year part of our goal is to win an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title, so falling short last weekend in the second half to our rivals, StFX (St. Francis Xavier) was pretty heartbreaking,” Forcier said.
“I think the mentality of our entire squad this season is we really had to have our hearts in it and leave it all on the field, and for myself it was really bittersweet as I’m excited to graduate, however, my experience at Acadia with the school and rugby has been so incredible.”
She said her teammates have become like family, as have Emma and Laura.
“We’ve been playing sports together since we were 10 and it really does feel like the end of an era,” Forcier said.
Heading into nationals this week, the Axewomen will be matched up against Queens in their quarterfinal opener.
“Queens plays more similar to us,” she said. “Fast and dynamic, so I think it will be a really good matchup. We have a lot of really solid leadership on our team, and regardless of how this week goes I’m confident we’ll play to the best of our ability. It’s been a fun journey and I’m looking forward to how we finish off our careers this nationals.”
Looking back at nationals last season, Laura noted the gap between winning and losing came down to convert kicks.
“I’m really excited to lace up the boots for my fourth and final U Sports Women’s Rugby National Championship,” Laura said.
Walters and the St. FX X-Women, meanwhile, are eager to see what the week brings as they look to their second university championship in as many years. Walters, who is playing in her fourth season at the school, said it will be a bit bittersweet competing in her final games as a member of the women’s team.
“It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to play the best teams in the country and play such a high calibre of rugby,” Walters said.
“This season has been momentous for several reasons including being the headliner game for homecoming to celebrate 50 years of female sports at X and then playing in New York against the tier 1 Army Black Knights, but nationals is where everything comes together and you get to showcase what you have been working on all season.”
She added playing for St. Francis Xavier has been a life-changing experience.
“It will be an emotional week knowing that this is the last time I will wear a StFX jersey.”
The U Sports Nationals kicks off Wednesday and concludes Sunday with the gold medal game at 12:30 p.m. PST. Livestreaming is available on USPORTS.LIVE.