Concordia’s women’s rugby team fell short of capturing a medal at Nationals, clinching fourth place.
The Lady Stingers were pooled with the losers of the Ontario final, the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and the defending National Champions the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Their first test was against the Mustangs in an effort to advance to the semi-finals. Ali Olshefsky opened the scoring midway through the first with a pick and go dive into the try zone. Sarah Scanlon mirrored Olshefsky moments before halftime to put the Stingers ahead 10-0. The Stingers would go on to shut out the Mustangs despite heavy pressure and messy, wet playing conditions. Canadian Interuniversity Sport rookie of the year Hughanna Gaw earned player of the game.
In an effort to get a by to the finals, Concordia faced the top seeded Pronghorns. What was remarkable about this match-up is that the Stingers managed to hold the Pronghorns to a 15-point lead. All the scoring came in the first half as Lethbridge used a quick-line out to catch Concordia’s forwards off-guard and two long runs to secure the victory early. Canadian all-star Jackie Tittley was named player of the game for solid tackling and non-stop pressure.
The loss meant that Concordia had advanced to the semis to face St-Francis Xavier University, the winners of the Atlantic division. Concordia came out of the gate strong and was always moving forward, despite the X-women’s crunching tackles. Tittley opened the scoring with an early penalty kick to put the Stingers up 3-0. Both teams were pelted with rain for the better part of the game, making the terrain extremely muddy and slippery. With just under ten minutes to go, St. FX tied up the game when a back streaked into the corner and forced the game into overtime.
After blanking the first added time, the X-women struck in the second overtime when a back went blindside and scored to wrap up the game at 13-8. Sarah Nesbitt was awarded Concordia’s player of the game.
This defeat left the Stingers contending for a bronze medal against the Guelph Gryphons. After being down 10-3 midway through the second half Concordia rallied when Lisa Hoffman put the ball in the try zone after being pushed in by a maul. Tittley converted her second kick of the day to make it 15-10. A barrage of last minute offence was in vain as Concordia repeatedly gave the Gryphons possession by taking penalties.
The game ended with the Gryphons up by five and the Stingers’ medal hopes dashed. Sarah Nesbitt earned her second player of the game award of the tournament.
While the Stingers were shut out of the medals, the managed to equal their best performance at the national level. They placed fourth in 1998, and more recently placed fifth when they made it to the tournament in the 2007-2008 season.
As Nationals capped off Concordia’s season, some members of the team were given special honours: Captain Claire Hortop, Vanessa Grillo, Tittley and Gaw were named Quebec rugby all-stars. Concordia comes second in representation on the all-star team, as Laval’s five all-stars edge the four Stingers. Tittley was also named a CIS all-Canadian for her outstanding three tries, 22 conversions and five penalty kicks, a total of 74 points in the six-game season. Eight-man Gaw, who lead the Stingers in tackles, received the CIS rookie of the year title, a first for a member of the Quebec league. She was also voted Quebec rookie of the year and was awarded the national women’s rugby rookie of the year honours, last week.