Concordia (1-0) at Ottawa (0-1)
Saturday, Sept. 9
Matt Anthony Field
Tickets available online
The three-time defending RSEQ conference champion Gee-Gee women’s rugby team takes centre stage at Matt Anthony Field this weekend. After reaching the national final in 2016, the team’s expectations for the 2017 season are high.
Saturday offers a rematch of the 2016 RSEQ Final and also offers the uOttawa squad a chance to bounce-back after a surprise loss to open the season last Saturday at Laval. The Rouge et Or edged Ottawa 19-17, the first loss for the Garnet and Grey in RSEQ play since 2013.
“If you’re going to lose a game...” said Gee-Gees head coach Jen Boyd to her team on the bus home from Laval, “The first one is probably the best. At least it wasn’t the semifinal,” she explains, referring to the game which would determine if uOttawa will return to the national championship tournament. “We’ve come back and made adjustments, had great sessions this week.”
“There are a lot of new people playing together, but I think we’re definitely coming in to this Saturday ready to show what we’ve got,” says Emily Gray, a third-year Economics student from Ottawa. “The Home Opener is our showcase and I get really fired up for the whole atmosphere.”
The matchup with the Stingers is also a big rivalry for the teams, adding extra incentive to the game may also determine home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“We know Concordia really well, and physically we match up well against them,” notes Boyd. Ottawa has recorded seven straight wins over the Stingers, but Concordia also was the last RSEQ team to defeat the Gee-Gees on home turf back in 2013. “Our back line defence has been exceptional against them, and it gives us a lot of confidence,” Boyd adds.
The Ottawa side features one former Stinger among its ranks in the form of 2013 RSEQ All-Star Samantha Bennett. She will make her home Gee-Gees debut after wearing no. 24 at Laval last week. “She brings a different perspective and it’s great having her. She works hard which is all you can ask for and she’s really funny,” says Gray of her team mate.
Gray, who wore no. 2 last week, is poised for a breakout season after she was pressed into service as a third-string scrum half in the 2016 national final. “I’m definitely taking on a bigger role,” she says. “In the summer I knew there would be an opportunity for me to do so since Jess Foran graduated, our hooker from last year. For myself it was about working hard during the summer to stay at the same high level. Then it’s about stepping up and being confident on the field and giving all that I can while knowing that all the girls are there to support me and know that I can do it.”
That team support is important off the field as well, as classes begin this week Gray notes that “We’re definitely conscious of the impact of starting school, especially for first-years it can be very stressful. My own transitions of having school start the last couple of years have been good: school is a priority and we all recognize that. But when you step on the field it’s time for rugby and that’s all you can think of – the focus has to be there.”
The lesson the Gee-Gees hope Concordia learns on Saturday?
“The team takes a lot of pride in being champions and all that comes with that word,” says Boyd, nodding affirmatively. “They want to send a message to U SPORTS that we’re still the team to beat. They’re ready to make a statement on Saturday.”
The Gee-Gees will be playing without starting no. 8 Dria Bennett as she competes for Canada’s Maple Leafs team series with Japan. Bennett is a student in the Faculty of Medicine’s Epidemiology program.
2015 Gee-Gees team member Brianna Miller, fresh from her performance with Team Canada at the World Cup (taking fifth place with a 4-1 record), has been at Gee-Gees practices this week in an assistant coaching role. Miller scored 21 points including one try for Canada over the five games. Her team mates with Canada at the World Cup, Alex Tessier (no. 13) and Frédérique Rajotte (no. 11), will suit up for Concordia.