Pandas rugby gunning for Pronghorns at Canada West championship
EDMONTON - For the first time since 2003, the University of
Alberta Pandas rugby team will host a championship game as they
welcome the Lethbridge Pronghorns, UBC Thunderbirds and the
Victoria Vikes to Edmonton for the Canada West championship
The Pandas hosted the CIS championship in 2003 and won their last of five-in-a-row on the snow-swept fields of the Strathcona Druids Rugby Club.
Alberta, ranked #4 in the country, went 3-1 in regular season play this year, posting wins over UBC and Victoria in BC, as well as over newcomers the University of Calgary Dinos in Calgary.
Their lone loss came at the hands of the Lethbridge Pronghorns, the two-time defending CIS champions, a 22-7 decision in Southern Alberta.
With all their action on the road, Parrish and the Pandas are glad to be playing meaningful rugby in front of their hometown fans.
"We are really looking forward to hosting the Canada West championship this weekend. The players are looking forward to playing in front of family, friends and Alumni. It is always a good opportunity to showcase CIS University Women's rugby, and to show all the local rugby people what a high standard of rugby it is."
"It is also our 10 year anniversary, so we are expecting a high number of alumni will be in town to support the team."
Despite their winning record, Parrish knows it will be no easy task this weekend. Only two teams from the West make it to the national championship, November 6-8, and with host UBC getting one of those berths, it will be all on the line for the other teams.
"It is always tough to qualify from Canada West. We feel that any team that qualifies out of the conference can challenge for a medal at Nationals. With UBC already going as hosts, league results would suggest that Lethbridge will be favourites to get that other sport from the West. We will of course be trying to beat them both."
The Pandas will open the Canada West championship against the T-Birds, the third place team in the West, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
Should Alberta get past UBC, and should Lethbridge defeat Victoria, it will set-up the third-straight Pandas and Pronghorns Canada West final, and sixth in the last eight seasons.
The Pronghorns have won three straight conference banners, two at the expense of the Pandas.
"If we are fortunate to make it to the final against Lethbridge, then we will be looking to avenge our recent defeats. They are a very good team, but I know that if my girls play their best game they can beat them."
Alberta will be counting on team captains Annika Eriksson (Scrum Half) and Nikki Tyminski (Prop), as well as fifth-year players Allison Lamoreaux (Prop) and Janine Martin (Wing). Two rookies who are playing in key positions for Alberta are Miranda Monty (#8) and Allison Fairbairn (Fly-Half).
In a chase for their fourth consecutive Canada West title, the Lethbridge Pronghorns have gone through their season undefeated. The Horns had a perfect 4-0 record in conference play, and outscored their opponents 217-7.
Lethbridge returns 20 of 25 players from last season's National Championship team and will once again be led by Ashley Patzer, who led all scorers in the Canada West with 40 points. She tied for second in tries scored with 4. She also kicked 7 converts and 2 penalty goals. Patzer is the reigning CIS tournament MVP and the 2006 CIS player of the year and 2005 CIS rookie of the year.
Horns backs, along with Patzer have been outstanding in conference action; Shannon Court, Andrea Letal and Brittany Orr tied for the conference lead in tries with five, while newcomer Kelsey Willougbhy will garner attention for Rookie of the Year.
Ashley Macdonald, a three- time CIS All-Canadian, also returns for her final season with national team experience after gaining her first national caps this summer and the CIS Rookie of the Year; Brandi van Eeuwen looks to build on her great rookie season; while Amanda Richardson looks to end her Horns career on a high note.
No preview available
The UVic Vikes women's rugby squad heads into the 2009 Canada West playoffs after completing their most successful regular season campaign since 2001.
Selina McGinnis' 50 metre try-scoring run made history on Oct. 4th as the Vikes edged out the Calgary Dinos and ended an eight year winless drought.
The Vikes nearly finished the season with a .500 record with a tight match against the UBC Thunderbirds but lost by a narrow three points on Oct. 17th.
Scrum half Kibby Evans drew the Vikes level at 5-5 and the game stayed in a deadlock as neither team was able to score points through their kicking until the ‘Birds set up a penalty goal late in the game.
Despite the loss the Vikes still finished the regular season with a 1-3 record and advanced to the Canada West championship as the no. 4 seed.