Team core set to return and defend ACAA title
On Sunday, at Loyalist Field in light rain, the women’s rugby team emphatically beat Mount Allison University 39-0 to capture the ACAA championship and remain undefeated.
For head coach Sherry Doiron the win has been a long time coming.
“We’ve been building this team for the last three years now, and this championship is the result of all that hard work. I’m very proud of the team.”
Doiron says the decision to start training camp in August and a tournament in Montreal before the regular season allowed the women to get the jump on their opponents out of the gate.
It definitely paid off. The Tommies went into Sunday’s game the clear favourites, having beaten every team in the league by wide margins.
It was a role no one expected them to play at the start of the season. Certainly no one expected them to knock off defending champions Mount Allison so easily.
“We didn’t come into this season thinking we were going to end up undefeated,” said flanker Sara Simmonds after the game. “At the start of the season I think most of us felt as if we were the underdogs, just because Mount Allison had won the last three years.”
Ten minutes in, rookie Kiersten Steeves scored what was easily the highlight of the game. From behind half, she managed to kick and chase the ball past the Mount Allison defence and down the sideline for a try. It was a play that summed up the dominance of every Tommie player.
“Sherry really knows how to get us to use our individual skills to come together as a team,” Simmonds said.
As the women huddled under the posts after the game, covered in mud and holding the championship banner, you could see this was a team that doesn’t come along very often. It was a team that had all the right tools to do something memorable.
“We didn’t have a huge loss of veterans last year,” Doiron said. “And the rookies that we did take on were already extremely talented before we even started training. Everything came together really well.”
“We all gelled automatically this year,” Simmonds said. “We were really a big family.”
The team now sets their sights on repeating next season, and it looks like they have every chance to do so. They will return an experienced line-up, with only four players expected to be lost over the off season. However, even as newly crowned champions, no one is taking anything for granted.
“No matter the score every game is hard,” Simmond’s said. “Mount Allison is always going to be dangerous. It’s just going to come down to who wants it more, and I think everyone on the team wants this again.”
Doiron says that with the win Sunday the St. Thomas women are now in a position to move up the rugby ladder.
“I have to focus on bigger things now. We want St. Thomas in the CIS. If that happens the women will get the chance to play better teams like St. Francis Xavier and Acadia.”
Whatever happens during the off season, and regardless of how the women perform next year, they have reason to celebrate right now. The women are undefeated, but more importantly they are champions.
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