By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s rugby team will aim to extend their two-year streak as title holders while the Vikes women meet conference rivals the Alberta Pandas in their first game at the 2016 University Sevens Championship in Burnaby, B.C. this weekend from Mar. 11-12.
The Vikes men have two teams in the championship this year with UVic 1 playing in Group A against the Regina Cougars, Waterloo Warriors and Calgary Dinos and UVic 2 facing UBC 2 and the Alberta Golden Bears in Group C2. On the women’s side, the Vikes will compete in Group B against the likes of conference rivals the Alberta Pandas, the Saskatchewan Huskies and Ontario’s Toronto Varsity Blues.
The Vikes have had plenty of success in the past at the University Sevens with the men taking home the title in two out of the past three renditions of the tournament, including a championship final win last year over rivals the UBC Thunderbirds. The women were finalists in 2015 but fell short against a tough McMaster Marauders side.
In the men’s UVic 1 side, the Vikes are bolstered by a large amount of returning players from the 2015 championship-winning team, including Jeff Nishma-Miller, Nathan Stewart, Kapi Vataiki and James Pitblado. The opportunity to enter a second team gives younger Vikes players such as Jack Nyren, Evan Cambridge and Matthew Gallagher an opportunity for more playing time with UVic 2.
“We’ve been very successful in the past at this tournament only having lost one cup in the event’s past three years,” said Vikes men’s rugby assistant coach Rick Farrally. “UBC will be a strong team this year after challenging us closely the past. We’ll be a much more balanced team but not as fast even with the likes of Crosby Stewart in the line-up.
“Some of the younger players on our second team will have no lack of sevens experience after having gone through the BC Elite 7s program and doing well at the Las Vegas 7s earlier in March.”
For the women, the Vikes jump right into a heated contest against Alberta to begin their 2016 University 7s campaign. Many of the Vikes women enter the tournament already in mid-season form from off-season training and participation in the Canada Maple Leafs’ trip to England back in December of 2015, which included Jess Neilson and Gabrielle Senft.
“It’s a tough schedule, but the girls have been training for it and are looking sharp going into this weekend,” said Vikes women’s rugby head coach Brittany Waters. “Sevens requires a lot of different roles and skills compared to 15s, so our roster includes players with speed, kicking skills and aerial ability that can help us win balls in the air. We’re set on taking it one game at a time and focusing on the process.”
UVic 1 is set to start early on Mar. 11 with an 8:00 a.m. PST clash with the Dinos before facing Regina and Waterloo later on in the early morning and afternoon. UVic 2 will face UBC Okanagan at 9:50 a.m. PST after the Vikes women get underway against the Pandas at 9:06 a.m. PST.
For details on how to stream this weekend’s action, visit here for more details and links to the tournament’s different games.
UVic 1: Gradyn Bowd, Luke Bradley, Sawyer Herron, Isaac Kaay, Jonathan Lorimer, Jeff Nishma-Miller, Ollie Nott, James Pitblado, Crosby Stewart, Nathan Stewart, Morgan Tate, Kapi Vataiki
UVic 2: Noah Bain, Evan Cambridge, Matthew Gallagher, Aaron Hersant, Kevin Leask, Cathal Long, Liam Mahon, Darrin Morrison, Mitch Newman, Jack Nyren, Gavin Rowell, Bhiamie Williamson
UVic: Angela Thompson, Ashlynn Jackson, Gabrielle Senft, Gurpreet Dhaliwal, Jamie Beck, Jess Neilson, Julia Folk, Jennifer Appleby, Madeleine Graham, Nicole Crowley, Sya Trafford, Tiffany Picketts