Pronghorns shutout Pandas to claim rugby crown
by Matt Gutsch, U of Alberta Sports Info
Photo courtesy Uwe Welz / U of Alberta Athletics
Lethbridge 30 Alberta 0
UofL-Convert-Ashley Patzer x2
UofL-DG-Ashley Patzer x2
EDMONTON - The Lethbridge Pronghorns' rugby team is now four-time consecutive Canada West champions thanks to a 30-0 gold medal victory over the host University of Alberta Pandas, Sunday afternoon at the Strathcona Rugby Club just outside of Edmonton.
Canada West Player of the Year Ashley Patzer scored a try, two converts and two drop goals to the lead the Pronghorns to the victory. Ashley Zaremba, Andrea Letal and Brittany Orr also added trys for the Pronghorns who now head to the CIS national championship tournament likely as the #1-seed and as two-time defending CIS champions.
"The effort had to be there today because the U of A kept coming, and they didn't give up throughout the match," said nine-year Lethbridge head coach Neil Langevin. "We knew that they would be very structured and that we would have to put together something really special here today to get past them. We're obviously very proud of the effort and happy that we got the win."
Sunday's championship tilt was the seventh time in the last nine years Alberta and Lethbridge have met in the conference deciding game, with the Pronghorns having now won the last three battles against their provincial rivals, including two consecutive.
Alberta, winners of five straight CIS titles from 1999 to 2003 and six straight Canada West banners from 1999 to 2004, had a chance early in the contest to take the lead and generate some momentum when they were awarded a penalty goal attempt, but couldn't convert on the kick.
Ten minutes later the Pronghorns got the only points they would need when Letal, a third-year wing/fullback from Calgary, made a hard run up the middle of the field, fighting off tackles and eventually touching down for the game-winning try.
Patzer opened the scoring even more when she added her first try of the tournament, and then connected on a convert attempt after Zaremba's try late in the first. Lethbridge owned a 19-0 lead at half-time, and Patzer, originally from Lethbridge, had accounted for seven of those points after sitting out the semi-final win over Victoria.
"I do believe she is one of the top five players in the world, and we're really proud of her," said 2009 conference coach of the year Langevin. "She has grown so much in her five years, and not just as a player, but as a leader and as an individual."
In the second half Patzer showed why her coach's praise is so well founded, when took two passes, strafed to the center of the field, squared herself up to the posts, and nailed a pair of drop goals from 35-yards out to balloon the lead and assure the victory.
Despite some late pressure that the Pandas generated towards the end of the first, in particular from 2009 Canada West All-Star Karlee Carbet, Alberta couldn't shake the Lethbridge tacklers.
Janine Martin had a strong run in the second half as the Pandas pushed for the score, but were time, and time again snuffed out by the Pronghorn defence.
A pair of blistering runs by Brittany Orr set-up Lethbridge's final points, as she gained real estate to set-up the second Patzer drop goal, and then notched a try herself.
With the win the Pronghorns head to UBC and the CIS championship, November 6-8, as the team to beat and with a strong chance at coming back with their third consecutive Monnex trophy.
"This was definitely the hardest the game we've played this year," said Patzer who was honoured as the player of the year after game in her final year of eligibility. "Anytime we play Alberta, we know its going to be a tough and physical game, and we knew that we would have to match that and overcome it."
"We just have to go home now and prepare to compete for that next championship," Patzer continued. "We just need to stay together as a team and stay focused as a team, and make our week of practice really worthwhile so that we're prepared."