RUGBY preview: Season opens Friday on West Coast

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EDMONTON – A pair of West Coast matchups kick off the 2017 Canada West (CW) rugby season this weekend, as the Alberta Pandas travel to UBC and Victoria to open a new year of conference play.

The Pandas, who finished third in the conference regular season a year ago, take on UBC Friday (4 p.m. PDT), before travelling to Vancouver Island to take on the Victoria Vikes Sunday (11:30 a.m. PDT).

Both the Lethbridge Pronghorns and defending CW champion Calgary Dinos open conference play next week, when a pair of inter-provincial rivalries take centre stage, as the Dinos and ‘Horns open the season Thursday, Sept. 21, while Victoria hosts UBC Sunday, Sept. 24.

Unsurprisingly, the Dinos enter the season the favourites to repeat, topping the conference’s annual pre-season coaches poll with 16 points – the maximum total available. Calgary earned the program’s first CW title last season and returns a strong core of veterans, led by fifth-years DeLeaka Menin, who was the 2016 CW MVP and part of Canada’s recent squad at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, and Emily Tuttosi, who was a CW all-star a year ago.

For the second consecutive season, the CW championship runs through southern Alberta, as Calgary hosts the four-team tournament Oct. 20-22 after Lethbridge hosted the event a year ago.

Speaking of Lethbridge, that’s where the nation’s top university rugby 15s teams will look for U SPORTS gold November 2-5, as the ‘Horns host the event for the second time ever after being crowned national champions on home turf back in 2008.

 

2017 CW women’s rugby pre-season coaches poll

Place / Team / Points (First-place votes)

  1. Calgary / 16 (4)
  2. Victoria / 13 (1)
  3. Alberta / 8
  4. Lethbridge / 7
  5. UBC / 6

NOTES: First-place vote worth 4 pts., second-place worth 3 pts. etc.

 

Alberta Pandas

2016 CW regular season record: 2-2, 3rd

2016 post-season record: 1-1, 3rd

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2014 / 11

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 2013 / 6

2016 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 109 points, 3rd

Defence: 146 points against, 3rd

2016 CW regular season leaders:

Points: 20 – Amee Svatos, #8

Tries: 4 – Amee Svatos, #8

Converts: 7 – Sarah Farley, Centre

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Courtney Holtkamp/ #8/ 1st/ Rimbey, AB/ U18 Team Canada

Lora Lee/ Full Back/ 1st/ Rimbey, AB/ Red Deer Titans

Heidi Peake/ Wing/ 1st/ Edmonton, AB/ Edmonton Lep-Tigers

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Amee Svatos/ #8/ Canby, Oregon/ 5

Amanda Smith/ Scrum Half/ Sherwood Park, AB/ 5

Sara Haring/ Lock/ Sturgeon County, AB/ 5

Key performer:

Ferris Sandboe

5th-year

Centre

La Glace, AB

The University of Alberta Pandas will field one of their youngest rosters this season, but they won’t be without their veteran leadership, which will come from fifth-year Centre Ferris Sandboe. Sandboe represents the only fifth-year on the Pandas this season, and her leadership and talent will go a long way in deciding if the Pandas can snap their two-year title drought. Veterans Ali Wicklum, Alexa Martin, and recruit Courtney Holtkamp will also be counted upon this season as the Pandas aim for their record 12th Canada West championship.

 

UBC THUNDERBIRDS

2016 CW regular season record: 1-3, 4th

2016 post-season record: DNQ

Last CW championship / total CW championships: /

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: /

2016 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 91 points, 4th

Defence: 158 points against, 4th

2016 CW regular season leaders:

Points: 25 – Mackenzie Lee, Inside centre

Tries: 5 – Mackenzie Lee, Inside centre

Converts: 5 – Ciara Malone, Wing

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Alayna Scramstad / Scrum-half/fly-half / 1 / Lashburn, Sask. / Canada U-18

Sarah Klok / Prop / 1 / Abbotsford, B.C. / Yale Secondary / BC U-18

Danika Elias / Flanker / 2 / Port-au-Prince, Haiti / Acadia University

Shoshanah Seumanutafa / 1 / Outside centre / back three / Surrey, B.C. / BC U-18

Delaney Aikens / Fullback/winger / 1 / Briercrest, Sask. / Shawnigan Lake School

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Taylor Kapaiwai / Hooker / Kelowna, B.C. / 5

Stephanie MacKinnon / Lock / Black Creek, B.C. / 5

Jen Blume / Hooker / Kitscoty, Alta. / 4

Mackenzie Lee / Inside centre / Langley, B.C. / 4

Ciara Malone / Wing / Delta, B.C. / 5

Key performer:

Shoshanah Seumanutafa

Outside centre / back three

1st-year

Surrey, B.C.

Seumanutafa is part of a well-regarded recruiting class for UBC head coach Maria Gallo. Seumanutafa has the passing skills to play in the centres and the speed to play wing. A naturally gifted athlete, the rookie from Surrey, B.C., is compact and has a fantastic step; she’s and evasive runner and sees the field well. Seumanutafa has been identified by the BC Youth 7s program as well.

 

CALGARY DINOS

2016 CW regular season record: 4-0, 1st

2016 post-season record: 4-1, Canada West champions, U SPORTS bronze

Last CW championship / total CW championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2016/1

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2016/3rd

2016 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 181 points, 1st

Defence: 52 points against, 1st

2016 CW regular season leaders:

Points: 64 – Elysa Sandron, fullback/wing

Tries: 7 – Temitope Ogunjimi, back row

Converts: 18 – Elysa Sandron, fullback/wing

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Alyson Macdougall/Back row/1/Calgary, AB/U18 Canada

Berlyn Seselja/Scrum half/1/White Rock, BC/U18 Canada

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Natasha Loucks/8 man/ Calgary, AB/ 5

Kelcey Leavitt/Wing/ Calgary, AB/ 5

Vanessa Graham/ Centre/ Calgary, AB/ 5

Key performers:

DaLeaka Menin/Emily Tuttosi

Prop/Hooker

5/5

Vulcan, AB/Souris, MB

The Dinos will look to build on their Bronze medal performance at last year’s U SPORTS National Championship tournament led by fifth-year athletes Emily Tuttosi and DaLeaka Menin.  Tuttosi is the current captain of the squad and is also coming off of an impressive season having been named a Canada West All-Star as well as a first team U SPORTS All-Canadian.  Menin enters her final season being the recipient of 2016 U SPORTSs and Canada West player of the year awards as well as being named to the national senior women’s team that competed in the Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

 

LETHBRIDGE PRONGHORNS

2016 CW regular season record: 0-4, 5th

2016 post-season record: 0-2, 4th

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2011 / 6

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 2009 / 3

2016 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 87 points, 5th

Defence: 196 points against, 5th

2016 CW regular season leaders:

Points: 15 – Hailey Driscoll, Wing

Tries: 3 – Hailey Driscoll, Wing

Converts: 6 – Abby Neudorf, Back Row

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Sarah Gordon / Fly Half / 5th year / Surrey, B.C. / Canada U20

Hannah Lopez / Full Back/ 1st year / Carlsbad, California / USA Sevens

Brittany Orr / Outside Centre / 5th year / Fort Macleod, Alta. / Canada Sevens 2012

Genna Wright / Inside Centre / 1st year / Taber, Alta / WolfPack

Charlie Mitchell / Prop / 1st year / Calgary, Alta/ WolfPack

Sara Cline / Hooker / 1st year / Edmonton, Alta / Canada U20

Bradee Ellingson / Prop / 1st year / Raymond, Alta / Raymond High

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Nicole Ronsky / Wing / Calgary, Alta. / 5 years

Frederique Tremblay / Hooker / Calgary, Alta. / 5 years

Key performer:

Jill Tataryn

Flanker

4th-year

Lethbridge, Alta

Entering her fourth season with the Pronghorns, flanker Jill Tatayn’s incredible physical fitness will allow her to anchor the defence that the ‘Horns will need if they expect to move up in the Canada West standings and show well at the USPORTS Championships as hosts this fall.

 

VICTORIA VIKES

2016 CW regular season record: 3-1, 2nd

2016 post-season record: 1-3, 8th U SPORTS

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2015 / 1

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 2015, 5th (highest finish)

2016 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 157 points, 2nd

Defence: 73 points against, 2nd

2016 CW regular season leaders:

Points: 42 – Jess Neilson, Fly Half

Tries: 6 – Madeleine Graham, Back 3

Converts: 10 – Jess Neilson, Fly Half

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Shaye Tudor / Flanker / 1 / Victoria, BC / Canadian U18 team

Renee Gonzales / Flanker / 1 / Toronto, ON / Lindenwood University

Sasha Guedes / Scrumhalf / 1 / Gatineau, QC / John Abbott College

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Shannon Fitzpatrick / Lock / Calgary, AB / 5

Chelsey Minter / Prop / Sidney, BC / 5

Key performer:

Madeleine Graham

Back 3

4th-year

Edmonton, AB

Madeleine Graham enters her fourth-year with the Vikes having led the team in tries for the past two seasons. The Back 3 player was named to the Canada West All-Star team last season after scoring six tries in four games. Using bursts of speed down the wing, Graham is a powerful runner with the ball and is just as comfortable running around somebody as through them.

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