Williams Lake’s Carleigh Walters and her St. Francis Xavier X-Women teammates defeated the Guelph Gryphons 42-24 to win the U SPORTS women’s rugby national championship Sunday evening at Acadia University.
Walters, a Lake City Secondary School graduate who was named an Atlantic University Sport first-team all-star earlier this month, helped the team hoist the national title in front of a boisterous and supportive X-Women crowd in the national championship, held at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS.
Walters and the X-Women cruised to a 42-21 triumph over Queen’s Thursday and a 26-12 victory over Laval Friday to earn a spot in the championship.
Meanwhile, fellow former Lake City secondary teammates Laura Pfleiderer, Emma Pfleiderer, Natasha Johnson and Skye Forcier with the Acadia Axewomen, and Carrie Lange with the University of Victoria Vikes, were also competing for their respective teams at nationals.
As the hosts, Laura, Emma, Johnson and Forcier opened their tournament last Thursday evening in front of a raucous crowd in Wolfville filled with hometown support.
And while they fell just shy of earning a spot in a medal game with a 0-2 record, both games were within reach. Acadia lost 26-24 to Ottawa Thursday, and was then edged by the Vikes 10-7 the following day to be eliminated from the tournament.
“It was super exciting to host the nationals,” Laura told the Tribune. “Thursday night when we kicked off the stands were packed. It was insane.”
While losing by two points was a tough pill to swallow, Laura said the team narrowly pulled off a remarkable comeback after going down two tries within the first five minutes of the game.
“We had the lead with about 20 minutes to play, but in the last 30 seconds they got a try and a convert to win,” she said.
Lange, who is in her rookie season, and the Vikes, meanwhile, wound up fifth in the nation after defeating the Queen’s Gaels 24-15 in the consolation final Sunday afternoon.
Following the national title win, X-Women coach Mike Cavanagh said the victory marked the team’s sixth national banner in its history, and previously won in 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010 and 2006.
“They are all special, but this one is nice because we didn’t seem to be given our due respect heading into the championship so it was nice that the girls proved everyone wrong,” Cavanagh said. “It was a nice one, especially to win this one in Nova Scotia in front of our fans.”
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Laura, who is in her third year with the Axewomen, added it was a remarkable experience to host a national championship with fellow lakecity players competing at the tournament and at their home university.
“Playing against Carleigh, of course is always awesome,” she said. “Every time she visits us or we visit there we always see each other before the game.
“Emma, Skye and Natasha, and me, we all give each other big hugs and kind of just joke about no hard feelings when we’re out there hitting each other, and after the game we’re all hugs again.”