Campus Life

Pronghorns ready for CIS challenge

The two-time defending champion University of Lethbridge Pronghorns will have to get by a number of usual suspects in order to capture a third consecutive CIS women's rugby title, beginning Friday in Vancouver.

The 12th annual CIS tournament, hosted for the first time by the University of British Columbia, gets under way Friday morning with six round robin matchups, culminating on Sunday afternoon with the gold medal final.

Joining Canada West champion Lethbridge in Vancouver are the AUS champion St. Francis Xavier X-Women, OUA champion Guelph Gryphons, QSSF champion Concordia Stingers, OUA finalist Western Ontario Mustangs, as well as the tournament host UBC Thunderbirds.

Lethbridge, Concordia and Western will battle in Pool A on Friday, while StFX, Guelph and UBC hope to make it out of Pool B. The top two teams from each group at the end of round-robin play advance to the semi-finals.

In Pool A, the Pronghorns will face a familiar foe and a new rival.

Lethbridge and University of Western Ontario, which lost 39-7 to Guelph in the OUA final last weekend, have battled no less than five times over the past three years at the CIS tourney, with the 'Horns holding a 3-2 edge including a 2-0 advantage in the medal round. They'll meet at 11 a.m. (MT) Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Lethbridge and Concordia University will square off for the very first time at the CIS tourney Friday at 4 p.m. (MT), in the third and final Pool A duel.

The Stingers, whose best result at the national championship is a fourth-place finish in the inaugural tournament back in 1998, booked their ticket for Vancouver with a 13-10 overtime win on the road over previously undefeated Laval in the Quebec final.

The Pronghorns enjoyed another sensational season in 2009. The defending champs outscored their Canada West opponents 333-7 in six overall duels, including a 30-0 win over the five-time national champion Alberta Pandas in the conference final, en route to a fourth straight Canada West banner.

The Pronghorns' toughest opposition might come from Pool B as St. Francis Xavier and Guelph also come into the championship with perfect conference records and have been ranked just behind Lethbridge in the coaches' poll. Both the X-Women and Gryphons have revenge on their minds, as they fell to Lethbridge in last year's CIS final and semifinal round, respectively.

SSN Canada will have live webcasts of Saturday's semifinals at noon and 2 p.m. (MT), as well as Sunday's bronze-medal game at 1 p.m. and championship match at 3 p.m.