PREVIEW CIS women’s rugby championship: Top-seeded Pandas aim for repeat performance in Guelph

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OTTAWA (CIS) – The top-seeded University of Alberta Pandas will try to become the first program in five years to repeat as Monilex Trophy champion this weekend when the best teams in CIS women’s rugby meet in Guelph for the 2014 national tournament.

The six-team competition, hosted by the University of Guelph for the second time in history, kicks off on Thursday and concludes Sunday with the gold-medal final at 2 p.m. All nine games from the tourney will be webcast live on CIS-SIC.tv.

In addition to the Canada West champion Pandas, the second-seeded McMaster Marauders (OUA champs), No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees (RSEQ champs), No. 4 St. Francis Xavier X-Women (AUS champs), No. 5 Guelph Gryphons (OUA silver medallists) and No. 6 Western Mustangs (OUA bronze medallists) will also compete for the CIS banner at Alumni Stadium.

Alberta, StFX and Western will battle in Pool A, while McMaster, Ottawa and Guelph make up Pool B.

The group winners advance to Sunday’s final. The middle teams will fight for CIS bronze and the last-place finishers for fifth position.

On opening day, Alberta faces Western at 10:30 a.m. and McMaster takes on Guelph at 1:30 p.m. StFX and Ottawa tackle the losers on Friday and the winners on Saturday.

The Pandas claimed their record sixth Monilex Trophy a year ago thanks to a 29-10 gold-medal win over the Gryphons in Quebec City. They had previously captured five consecutive CIS titles from 1999 to 2003, with their first triumph 15 years ago coming in Guelph.

The last team to repeat as CIS champ was Lethbridge, who won three straight banners from 2007 to 2009.

“It really is a different group than the CIS championship team from a year ago, which could best be described with two words: experience and superstars,” says 11-year Alberta head coach Matt Parrish, whose 2014 squad finished second in Canada West behind Calgary with a 3-1 league record but defeated the Dinos 19-11 in the conference final. “Last year, we had seven fifth-year players and 10 graduating players in total. Those veterans were also in some key decision-making positions such as 8, 9, 10 and 12. We also had a couple of superstars in Chelsea Guthrie and Miranda Monty.

“This season a lot of younger players have had to step up in those leadership positions such as Elizabeth Steele at 8, Amanda Smith at 9 and Dakota Weir at 12. We also don’t have those superstar players to get those tries when we are in a bit of trouble, so we have definitely had to work on team plays to get us pour points this year. We can be successful at the CIS championship if we can stay healthy, stick to our game plans, and work harder than the other team.”

In the other conference finals this past weekend, StFX edged Acadia 19-12 in overtime for the second straight year in the AUS; McMaster claimed its first OUA championship thanks to a 19-10 victory over Guelph; Ottawa defeated Concordia 13-5 to capture its first-ever RSEQ title.

Western earned the last ticket for the national tourney with a 22-19 win over Queen’s in the OUA bronze-medal match.

Set to battle Alberta in Pool A, the X-Women already have three Monilex in their trophy case (2006, 2010, 2012), while the Mustangs have two (2004, 2005).

“We are looking forward to seeing how we compete at the next level,” says StFX coach Mike Canavagh, whose program had played in a remarkable five straight national finals before settling for fifth place last year in Quebec City. “This team has been getting better every week and hopefully we can continue. I think the championship will be wide open and it’s going to be an excellent four days of competition.”

Western bench boss Natascha Wesch and her team return to the CIS tournament for the first time since a sixth-place finish in 2009.

“This season has been about improving our team’s rugby IQ and focusing on allowing the athletes to find their way. We’ve had some very strong leadership from our most veteran athletes and some important buy-in from the younger athletes. We expect the championship to be filled with strong competition, good coaching and talented athletes. However, from past experience, we also know that anything is possible and we are excited to be able to contend for the CIS title.”

Guelph is the only past Monilex Trophy champion among Pool B contenders, having won the inaugural CIS tournament in 1998 and adding a second banner in 2011. The Gryphons have been oh-so-close each of the past two years, dropping the 2012 final to StFX in addition to their gold-medal loss to Alberta 12 months ago.

McMaster lost to Guelph 15-10 in the 1998 final and has since competed at the event only once, placing fifth in 2011.

Ottawa is about to make its first-ever appearance at the tournament.

Thursday’s McMaster-Guelph confrontation will be the third in a month between the OUA foes but the first at Alumni Stadium. In addition to the Marauders 19-10 win in the conference championship game, the rivals battled to a 27-27 draw on Sept. 28 in Hamilton.

“The level of play at the CIS championships is getting better and better each year. It’s a true pathway for those that want to reach the next level,” says Guelph head coach Colette McAuley, whose Gryphons are making their 10th consecutive trip to the competition. “We have to be toughest at the breakdown to win this tournament. If we win the point of contact and remain confident in our skills, we’ll win games.”

Ottawa coach Jennifer Boyd led her troops to an undefeated RSEQ campaign in her second season at the helm.

“It will be our first time but we should be able to surprise and turn some heads, so I am excited about the tournament. The difference from this year and last year’s team is huge. I knew we were going to be better, I just didn’t know how much. To be here right now with these girls really shows the amount of work we have put in.”

TEAM PROFILES

POOL A

No. 1 Alberta Pandas (Canada West champions)

Media Guide (PDF)

Head Coach: Matt Parrish (11th season)
Regular season record: 3-1
Regular season standing: 2nd Canada West
Playoff record: 2-0
Playoff finish: Canada West champions
Conference award winners: Alanna Fittes (MVP), Matt Parrish (coach)
Conference all-stars: Elizabeth Steele, Rebecca Fairbairn, Jules Goss, Alanna Fittes
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 11
CIS championship all-time record: 29-6-2 (.811)
CIS championship all-time medals: 9 (6-1-2)
CIS championship best result: 6-time champions (2013, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999)
CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (champions)
CIS championship sequence: 3rd straight appearance

No. 4 St. Francis Xavier X-Women (AUS champions)

Media Guide (PDF)

Head Coach: Mike Cavanagh (16th season)
Regular season record: 6-0
Regular season standing: 1st AUS
Playoff record: 2-0
Playoff finish: AUS champions
Conference award winners: Emma Taylor (MVP), Joanna Alphonso (rookie), Mike Cavanagh (coach)
Conference all-stars: Joanna Alphonso, Catharine MacKeigan, Emma Taylor, Brooke Newsome, Zahra Batool, Jaelei Meyer, Danielle Robb, Breanna Allison
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 17
CIS championship all-time record: 24-28-3 (.464)
CIS championship all-time medals: 6 (3-3-0)
CIS championship best result: 3-time champions (2012, 2010, 2006)
CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (5th place)
CIS championship sequence: 17th straight appearance

No. 6 Western Mustangs (OUA bronze medallists)

Head Coach: Natascha Wesch (21st season)
Regular season record: 2-3
Regular season standing: 3rd OUA Shiels Division
Playoff record: 2-1
Playoff finish: OUA bronze medallists
Conference award winners (Shiels Division): Lori Josephson (MVP), Nikki Case (rookie)
Conference all-stars (Shiels Division): Lori Josephson, Mackenzie Fane, Ashley Snider
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 9
CIS championship all-time record: 19-11 (.633)
CIS championship all-time medals: 5 (2-2-1)
CIS championship best result: 2-time champions (2005, 2004)
CIS championship last appearance: 2009 (6th place)
CIS championship sequence: Return after 4-year absence

POOL B

No. 2 McMaster Marauders (OUA champions)

Head Coach: Shaun Allen (1st season)
Regular season record: 4-0-1
Regular season standing: 1st OUA Russell Division
Playoff record: 3-0
Playoff finish: OUA champions
Conference award winners (Russell Division): None
Conference all-stars (Russell Division): Cindy Nelles, Emily Ricketts, Sara Svoboda, Abigail Moody, Heidi Henderson
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 3
CIS championship all-time record: 4-3 (.571)
CIS championship all-time medals: 1 (0-1-0)
CIS championship best result: Finalists (1998)
CIS championship last appearance: 2011 (5th place)
CIS championship sequence: Return after 2-year absence

No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees (RSEQ champions)

Head Coach: Jennifer Boyd (2nd season)
Regular season record: 7-0
Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ
Playoff record: 2-0
Playoff finish: RSEQ champions
Conference award winners: Afton Maisonneuve (leadership), Jennifer Boyd (coach)
Conference all-stars: Allison MacCormack, Erin van Gulik
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 1
CIS championship all-time record: 0-0
CIS championship all-time medals: 0
CIS championship best result: –
CIS championship last appearance: –
CIS championship sequence: First appearance

No. 5 Guelph Gryphons (OUA silver medallists)

Head Coach: Colette McAuley (8th season)
Regular season record: 3-0-2
Regular season standing: 1st OUA Shiels Division
Playoff record: 2-1
Playoff finish: OUA silver medallists
Conference award winners (Shiels Division): None
Conference all-stars (Shiels Division): Brittany Priddle, Shannon Spurrell, Brittany Kassil, Devon Stober, Rita Charest-Pekeski
CIS championship appearances (including 2014): 15
CIS championship all-time record: 28-22-2 (.558)
CIS championship all-time medals: 11 (2-4-5)
CIS championship best result: 2-time champions (2011, 1998)
CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (silver medal)
CIS championship sequence: 10th straight appearance

MONILEX TROPHY CHAMPIONS (Inaugural championship held in 1998)

2013 Alberta
2012 StFX
2011 Guelph
2010 StFX
2009 Lethbridge
2008 Lethbridge
2007 Lethbridge
2006 StFX
2005 Western
2004 Western
2003 Alberta
2002 Alberta
2001 Alberta
2000 Alberta
1999 Alberta
1998 Guelph

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, Oct. 29
18:30 All-Canadian Awards Gala (Holiday Inn)

Thursday, Oct. 30
10:30 Pool A: Alberta vs. Western (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
13:30 Pool B: McMaster vs. Guelph (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Friday, Oct. 31
10:30 Pool A: Loser (Alberta-Western) vs. StFX (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
13:30 Pool B: Loser (McMaster-Guelph) vs. Ottawa (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Saturday, Nov. 1
10:30 Pool A: Winner (Alberta-Western) vs. StFX (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
13:30 Pool B: Winner (McMaster-Guelph) vs. Ottawa (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Sunday, Nov. 2
10:00 Fifth place: 3rd Pool A vs. 3rd Pool B (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
12:00 Bronze medal: 2nd Pool A vs. 2nd Pool B (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:00 Championship final: 1st Pool A vs. 1st Pool B (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Every year, over 11,500 student-athletes and 700 coaches from 56 universities and four regional associations vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit www.cis-sic.ca or follow us on:

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-CIS-

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