Campus Life

Depth the key to title defence

These Pronghorns are out to prove they're more than a one-trick pony.

The defending CIS
national champion women's rugby team is looking for a repeat performance and it'll get that opportunity on home soil when the University hosts the national championship tournament Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 at the Lethbridge Sports Park.

A year ago, the Pronghorns showcased their depth in capturing just the second CIS title in the history of Pronghorn Athletics. With their captain away on a national team tour and injuries sprinkled throughout the lineup, the Horns still found a way to win, beating University of Western Mustangs 15-10 in the title game.

"That was kind of the hallmark of the team last year," head coach Neil Langevin says. "No matter how many injuries we had or people away, the group stepped up. This year, instead of being one or two deep in every position, we've tried to be two or three deep in every spot."

An exceptional recruiting class has netted a handful of rookies who have already contributed at the CIS level, including first-year players Brandi Van Eeuwen and Kendra Reeves, who have helped transform the team's identity.

"Our game plan is to still run the ball wide and use our speed but we wanted to address the fact we'd been physically handled in the past by other teams, such as University of Alberta," Langevin says.

Despite a 9-5 loss to the Pandas in the Canada West seeding tournament in September, the Horns controlled the trenches, only failing to capitalize on opportunities.

"That's the first time I could say we actually physically dominated U of A."

With captain Ashley Patzer and last year's CIS nationals most valuable player Brittany Orr back, the Horns (who lost just four players to graduation) are loaded for their attempted repeat. It's a trend Langevin expects will continue.

"With the strength of the high school league here, the program is sustainable for a long time," he says. "Out of our 32, eight of them are first-year players."

That the Pronghorns get to showcase this talent in front of a local crowd only adds to the excitement.

"Our girls don't get a chance to play at home and that's exactly why we wanted to host," Langevin says. "We want to show southern Alberta what this sport, for women, looks like."