Shawnigan Lake School went into the provincial high school girls rugby championships ranked third in B.C., but their seeding missed its mark.
Shawnigan rolled through the AAA tournament in Williams Lake, and capped it off with a spectacular 58-7 victory over perennial favourites Carson Graham in the gold-medal game on Saturday.
“We came into the game hard and fast and strong,” Shawnigan coach Shannon Atkins said. “We were ready.”
Maggie Banks and Chloe Storie-Soth led Shawnigan with four tries each, Maddie Nicholson and Sammi Lillywhite each scored once, and Storie-Soth also slotted four conversions as their team was unstoppable in their last game of the season.
“This is the best showing of high school girls rugby I have ever seen,” Atkins said. “They started firing on all cylinders, and they never stopped.”
Banks also scored four tries in Shawnigan’s first game of the tournament, a 64-12 win over sixth-seeded Abbotsford. Lillywhite had four of her own, Storie-Soth and Sydney Hall had two tries each. Storie-Soth kicked six conversions and Banks added one.
“We came out ready and strong for our first game, knowing that the road might not be easy,” Atkins said.
In the semifinals, Shawnigan won 40-14 over Yale — the only team that they lost to at the 2017 provincial championships. Banks ran for three tries, Lillywhite, Gracie McAllister and Maria Guadarrama scored one apiece, and Storie-Soth had five conversions.
Hazel Bice was awarded the President’s XV jersey, and along with her co-captains Tobi Akinyosoye and Avery Champion, provided leadership and inspiration to their teammates. The three captains will be graduating this year along with Selam Gurmu and Jilly Barrett but a strong crop of young players, including Banks, Hall and Guadarrama, are ready to take the reins, Atkins said.
“We have high expectations for these young players,” Atkins said, speaking for herself and fellow coaches Laura Russell and Dani Robb. “These girls exceeded these expectations and put on an amazing performance and played beautiful rugby. We are all so proud of them.”
The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds went into the AAA championships ranked fifth, and retained that seeding when the dust settled.
The T-Birds opened the tournament last Thursday with a 24-5 loss to Earl Marriott, a result that didn’t reflect Cowichan’s play.
“We lost to them in the provincial sevens 7-5 only a few weeks prior,” Cowichan coach Sherry Spence said. “The T-Birds had a very strong game, but the Marriott team has just an amazing ‘poaching’ ability, which was the difference; they took the ball from us after five or six phases.”
That loss put Cowichan out of the top four, but the team rallied on, beating Mount Boucherie 47-5 on Friday, and Abbotsford 55-10 on Saturday to finish a respectable fifth.
Scrum-half Lauren Rivera had an outstanding tournament and was Cowichan’s recipient of the President’s XV jersey.
Brentwood College School took a very young team to the provincial AA tournament, also in Williams Lake, and managed to hold on to their seventh-place seeding.
“Going in seventh and coming seventh was a good result for us,” coach Marius Felix said. “We would have liked to beat our seeding, but at the end of the day, the kids got a lot of good experience.”
Brentwood lost their opening match 42-12 to a much more experienced NorKam side. With their team out of the top four, the Brentwood coaches opted to give all their players time on the pitch, rather than riding their starters all the way. Had they not chosen to do that, Friday’s 26-17 loss to Westsyde might have gone a different way.
“I think we would have had a chance to win if we kept our top 15 in,” Felix said.
Brentwood closed out the tournament with a dominant win over Houston in the seventh-place game.
Brentwood had just two Grade 12s this year: captain Chloe Pierce and Frankie Alexander, who started two of three games at provincials, and 11 of their 15 regular starters were in Grade 9 or Grade 10, which bodes well for the future.
“I think next year and the year after will be good years for us,” Felix said. “It’s not just going to happen; we have to put the work in. But we certainly have some nice players coming through.”
One of those young stars is Grade 10 Desola Ogunlade, who scored 10 tries and was named to the President’s XV.
“That’s not bad in any company,” Felix said. “She’s a fast, athletic young woman. She played really well through the weekend.”