UBC women’s rugby 2014 season preview

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Gabby Hindley

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds look to build on a 2013 season which saw first-year head coach Maria Gallo earn Canada West women’s rugby Coach of the Year honours.
 
“Last year, my emphasis was to create new culture and I think we were successful in doing that last year so we have a solid foundation,” said Gallo, a former national team star. “Now, it’s more about performance. I’ve managed to entice a couple of the senior players to come back so we’ve got a lot more experience this year.
 
“We’re going to keep building on the basic skills and one of the big things we are focusing on this season is attitude. We need to have the right attitude in order to perform at the right level.”
 
Gallo’s vision of team culture has been established and the program’s foundation is solidifying, especially with the new hiring of UBC Manager of Rugby Dave Brown.
 
“We’ve had some really good discussions about creating opportunities so young high school players are aware UBC has a good program, making ourselves visible in high school and perhaps, creating an identification camp,” said Gallo. “These are all Dave’s ideas and hopefully, he can make them come to fruition.”
 
UBC finished 1-3 in the regular season last year before placing fourth at the league playoff tournament. This season, the team’s leadership group will be comprised of T-Birds ranging from fifth-year seniors to second-year players.
 
Two Canada West All-stars from 2013, Carolyn McEwen and Haley Glendinning of Kamloops, B.C., are back. McEwen, a Kinesiology graduate student from St. George, Ont., will captain the squad.
 
The T-Birds also welcome the return of 2012 league all-star Megan Hamm, who’s healthy after missing last year because of injury. The Langley, B.C., native will be a key leader as a link between the forwards and the backs.
 
Other veterans expected to lead the UBC team include forwards McEwen, Glendinning and Gabrielle Hindley (Guelph, Ont.) and backs Hamm, Annabel Arnott (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Ciara Malone (Delta, B.C.). This year, the pack is mature and experienced with four of the eight starting for Sr. BC Rugby this summer.

Nicole Mallow of Caledon, Ont., and Maggie Laverge from Winnipeg highlight the latest crop of recruits, which also includes players from as far away as Hong Kong.
 
“We put a lot of emphasis last year on individual skills and personal growth, so the players managed to play some high-quality rugby throughout the summer months, which is important,” remarked Gallo. “We had six UBC athletes representing Senior BC. We had a couple training with the provincial under-20 team as well. The ones who were away in other parts of Canada were playing provincial rugby too.
 
“We have more quality minutes and we’ve made an impact on individual skills. For us, that’s a strong foundation to now start to think, tactically, what we can do.”
 
UBC will host all four of its regular season games this year, beginning with the opener on Friday, Sept. 19 against Calgary. The Dinos were picked by the Canada West’s coaches to finish first in the league this year but have been ranked eighth in the first three Canadian Interuniversity Sport Top 10 polls, behind top-rated Alberta. 

The Sept. 19 game between UBC and Calgary will kick off at 4 p.m. at the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre.

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