Women win second straight rugby championship

STU women’s rugby team took home the ACAA championship for the second year in a row, beating Mount Allison University 32-7 on Sunday. (Tom Bateman/AQ

The St. Thomas University women’s rugby team is making a habit out of defeating Mount Allison in the championship game.

And this time, there was significantly less mud.

The Tommies took home the ACAA championship banner for the second year in a row after defeating the Mounties 32-7 on Sunday.

“It’s really exciting for all of the girls because we’ve come a long way in the last few seasons and it’s nice to end with a win,” said Hannah Davies, one of the team’s captains.

This marks the third time in five years that the team has won the ACAA championship.

“There wasn’t any more preparation we could have done,” said head coach Sherry Doiron. “We were ready for this game for a long time and we just had to get on the field and play it.”

The Tommies made it clear from the beginning that they were going to put up a fight again this year.

Kiersten Steeves capitalized on a penalty kick 10 minutes in to make it 3-0 for STU. Shortly after, Davies made a hard drive before dishing off to Marissa Walcott, who completed the run for a try to make it 8-0. Half-an-hour in, Amanda Steeves, who only two months ago had major surgery, scored a try and Kiersten Steeves successfully kicked the convert.

At halftime the score was 15-0 for STU.

The Mounties came out with a vengeance in the second half, but the Tommies kept their ground. Davies kicked the ball out of the STU zone and Heidi McKillop recovered, passing it to Walcott who ran it in for a try.

The game continued to get rougher as the final whistle approached. The Mounties made it onto the scoreboard with a try and convert by Lauren Feindel, but STU reciprocated with a team effort by Whitney Upshaw, Walcott and McKillop, who secured the try.

With a final try from Juliana Duque and a convert from Kiersten Steeves, MTA was unable to recover and STU were once again named champions with a score of 32-7.

“We started off a little rough,” said Mounties eight-man Bethany Toczko.

“Our heads weren’t really in it in the first ten minutes or so but we started to pick it up. I think we played pretty well but STU just capitalized on our mistakes.”

The game brought in a crowd of 250 at the College Field. Friends, family members and alumni crowded the sidelines to support both teams.

Stephanie Lewis played for four seasons with the Tommies before graduating in 2011. She said she rarely missed a game this year and was proud to see the team capture the championship banner once again.

“We’re a family,” Lewis said. “The rookies have glued to the team like we [all] did last year and it’s so great to see them win another championship.”

Doiron said the team probably got little sleep the night before, but the pregame atmosphere allowed them to discuss their game plan and come together as a team.

“The hockey team actually let us have their dressing room,” Doiron said. “That was really fantastic and it gave us an opportunity to have that atmosphere of just bringing it all together and celebrating the successes of one another. And I think that really helped contribute to that sense of oneness.”

Six STU players were named all-conference players for the league after the game, including Kiersten Steeves, Emily Nearing, Marissa Walcott, Hannah Davies, Whitney Upshaw and Juliana Duque. Walcott was named Player of the Game, and Kiersten Steeves was named ACAA Player of the Year.

Doiron, the only woman head coach at STU, received a standing ovation from her team after she was named ACAA Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

“There’s no question about it – she definitely deserves it,” STU player Amanda Steeves said. “She’s always there for us.

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