TORONTO – The 2022 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship gets underway on Wednesday at the University of Victoria, with quarterfinal action kicking off at 1 p.m. (all times Pacific). The final of the eight-team event is set for Sunday, November 6 at 3 p.m. at UVic’s Centennial Stadium
GUESS WHO’S BACK, BACK AGAIN: Seven of the eight teams at this week’s event were also at the 2021 championship in Kingston, Ont. Ottawa holds the longest current streak, with eight straight appearances, followed by Acadia (7), Guelph (6), Queen’s and Laval (5 each), UBC (3) and UVic (2). UPEI, meanwhile, is making its first appearance since 2004.
ISLAND TIME: This is the third time the women’s rugby championship has been played in Victoria. The last time UVic hosted was in 2016 when the StFX X-Women raised the trophy, and their first hosting turn came in 2005 when the Western Mustangs took home the banner.
ON WEDNESDAYS WE SCRUM: All four quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday, November 2. The opening game will be at 1 p.m. and will feature Laval taking on Acadia. The second quarterfinal, UBC vs. Guelph, follows at 3 p.m. Both those games will be held at Wallace Field on the UVic back campus. The final two games, to be held at Centennial Stadium, will see UPEI and Ottawa square off at 5 p.m., while Queen’s takes on the hosts Victoria at 7 p.m.
TICKETS: Tournament passes and single-day tickets for the event are currently on sale at vikestickets.universitytickets.com.
ISLAND IN THE STREAM: For those who can’t make it to Vancouver Island, all 11 games of the championship will be streamed on cbcsports.ca and CBC Gem in English and at USPORTS.ca in French.
REIGNING QUEEN’S: The top seed in the tournament is held by Queen’s, the defending national champion. The Gaels held the top spot in the U SPORTS rankings throughout the season, as they posted a perfect 6-0 regular season record and edged Guelph 29-24 in the OUA Championship game last Friday in Kingston. The Gaels boast six OUA first-team all-stars, led by conference MVP Lizzie Gibson. Gibson, a flanker from Caledon, Ont., led the nation with 176 regular-season points on 14 tries and 53 conversions. Maddy Donnelly, an outside centre from Little Britain, Ont., won conference rookie-of-the-year honours after scoring nine tries in six games for the Gaels.
RED, LOOKING FOR GOLD: Coming in at No. 2 are the Laval Rouge et Or, who won their second straight RSEQ conference title with a 13-11 home win over Ottawa on October 22. The Rouge et Or also posted a perfect 6-0 regular season record, and did not allow a point until the final game of the regular season. Led by first-year coach François Vachon-Marceau, they have six RSEQ first-team all-stars in their lineup including Marie-Pier Fauteux, who won conference MVP honours for the second time in her career. The fifth-year flanker from Sherbrooke, Que., scored 12 tries and kicked eight conversions for a total of 76 points. The Rouge et Or are making their ninth trip to the national championship and won their only title in 2019.
T-BIRD IS THE WORD: The UBC Thunderbirds hold the No. 3 seed, thanks to a 24-12 win over UVic in the Canada West title game on Oct. 23 in Edmonton. UBC went 4-0-1 this year, with the only blemish on their record being a 31-31 draw at Victoria in the last week of the regular season. The Thunderbirds are led by Shoshana Seumanutafa, a fifth-year centre from White Rock, B.C., who was named the CW player of the year. A pillar of the UBC back line, she scored two regular-season tries and added one in the league final. Altogether, UBC brings six conference all-stars with them across the Salish Sea to Victoria.
FROM ONE ISLAND TO ANOTHER: The UPEI Panthers sit at No. 4 and are making their second trip to the national championship, with their previous appearance being in 2004. The Panthers went 4-2 in the regular season and scored 14 unanswered points to knock off StFX in the AUS semifinal, then used a 21-point second half to upset Acadia 33-12 in the AUS final. Second-year head coach James Voye won AUS coach of the year honours, and Brinten Comeau – a fourth-year flanker from Halifax – became the first Panther ever to be named AUS MVP. Four Panthers earned all-star nods this year, including Emily Duffy, a two-time U SPORTS player of the week, and Frances MacWilliam, who picked up the honour once.
THEY AREN’T HORSING AROUND: The Ottawa Gee-Gees hold the tournament No. 5 seed, after finishing second in the RSEQ. They went 5-1 in the regular season, losing only to Laval in the final week of the regular season, and were denied an upset in the league final by a last-minute Laval penalty goal. The Gee-Gees are making their ninth appearance at the national championship and are seeking a second banner after winning the crown in 2017. Last year’s national finalists, they have five RSEQ first-team all-stars, including Mercedes Cole, the conference rookie of the year. Cole, a winger from Ajax, Ont., tied for the team lead with eight tries.
NOT MYTHICAL BEASTS: The Guelph Gryphons come into the tournament at No. 6, after a narrow defeat by Queen’s in the OUA final. The Gryphons, who are making their 21st trip to the national championship, went 5-1 in the regular season, losing only to the undefeated Gaels. Guelph won the first-ever CIAU women’s rugby championship in 1998 and their second banner in 2011. This year’s squad boasts five OUA first-team all-stars, led by centre Kendra Cousineau, who was second in the OUA with 96 points on nine tries, 24 conversions and a penalty goal.
WIELDING THE AXE: The Acadia Axewomen picked up the No. 7 seed this year, as they went 5-1 in the regular season, but were upset by UPEI in the AUS final. This is Acadia’s seventh straight appearance at the national tournament, and their ninth overall. The Axewomen boast five AUS all-stars, led by Sara Grant. The second-year centre out of Melrose, N.B., led the AUS with 62 points this season as she scored seven tries, and kicked 12 conversions as well as one penalty goal. The Axewomen are led by 13-year head coach Matt Durant who (when not teaching Nutrition and Dietetics at Acadia) has posted a combined 56-27 record between the regular season and postseason play.
WILL VICTORIA BE VICTORIOUS?: The host Victoria Vikes come in as the tournament’s No. 8 seed. The Vikes went 3-1-1 in the regular season, rebounding from a season-opening loss at UBC to finish second in Canada West. They eased past Calgary, 34-8, in the Canada West semifinal before falling to UBC in the conference championship. Victoria has a balanced attack, with 20 different try-scorers, led by rookie Lucie Romeo’s seven. Romeo was one of three Vikes to be named a Canada West all-star, while Carissa Norsten, a winger/fullback from Waldheim, Sask., won CW rookie of the year honours. This is the fifth appearance at nationals for the Vikes, with their best finish (fourth place) coming last year.
X-ED OUT: This year is the first time StFX has not qualified for the national championship since play began in 1998. This ends a streak of 23 consecutive appearances for the X-Women.
FRIDAY, I’M IN LINE OUTS: Game Day 2 is set for Friday, November 4, and will kick off with consolation games at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Wallace Field – with championship semifinals to follow at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.
SUNDAY, RUGBY SUNDAY: The final day of action will be Sunday, November 6 at Centennial Stadium. Action gets underway with the fifth-place game at 11 a.m., followed by the bronze-medal game at 1 p.m. and the championship at 3 p.m.