By James Nielsen, Vikes Communications
September 17, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Entering his second year in charge of the University of Victoria women’s rugby team, head coach Mark Hall will look to rebound from last season’s winless campaign when his team faces Lethbridge in their Canada West season opener, Sept. 20, 5:00pm at Wallace Field.
Hall welcomes a fresh, elite group of recruits to the Vikes fold, boasting 15 new members, 11 of who competed provincially this past summer.
In Hall’s inaugural year, after taking over for long-time head coach Bruce Howe, the Vikes women were 0-4 in Canada West play, missing out on the playoffs. Several new additions to the Vikes roster this season have Hall convinced that his team will have a higher compete level than it did previously.
A majority of this year’s new recruits have provincial experience, with the majority having competed withTeam B.C. Undisputedly, Jess Neilson will be the rookie to watch as the flyhalf was named to the under-20 Canadian national squad at the age of 17. Neilson, a product of Carson Graham in North Vancouver, defines student-athlete as she helped her school win four B.C. triple A titles in five seasons and enters UVic’s Gustavson School of Business at a second-year level.
First-year prop Tiffany Picketts, also named to Canada’s Under 20 long list, will be pivotal, lending her size, skill and versatility to the squad. Rounding out the freshmen class are Allie White, Nicole Crowley and Shelby Pihl, members of B.C.’s Under 18 team captured silver at the 2013 national championship. Crowley, a Shawnigan Lake school graduate, is also the daughter of Canada’s men’s national team head coach, Kieran Crowley.
Senior and captain Melissa Robinson, along with fifth-years Alanna Cryer, Kimberly Newsome and Kehla Guimond will be looked at to provide guidance for the squad as they aim for a post-season berth.
Guimond was the lone rugby Vike to represent Canada at this past summer’s FISU games in Kazan, Russia, helping the Canadians win bronze, the country’s first team medal at the games.
“We’ve had three exhibition games and three weeks of training so far,” explained Hall. “We’re hoping to have lots of success given our strengths. We have a quite a lot of speed and skill and I think we will be the fitter team on most days.”
The Vikes open their Canada West campaign at home against Lethbridge on Sept. 20 at 5:00 p.m. at Wallace Field.