Cowichan’s Melanie Robertson looks to offload the ball during her team’s third match in pool play at the provincial girls rugby sevens championships last Friday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Valley high schools successful at B.C. girls sevens tournament

Shawnigan second in senior tournament, beats Brentwood in junior final

Shawnigan Lake School reached both the senior and junior finals at the high school girls rugby sevens provincial championships hosted by Brentwood College School last week.

Shawnigan’s senior team ended up with provincial silver medals, while the junior side beat Brentwood to top the podium in their tournament.

“It was impressive for both of these teams to make it to the gold medals, as Shawnigan was one of only two schools to have a team in both the junior and senior divisions,” Shawnigan coach Shannon Atkins said. “We are so proud of the valiant effort put forth and we are looking forward to the XV Provincials in Williams Lake next week.”

The Shawnigan seniors went unbeated in pool play on Friday, then beat Cowichan Secondary to reach the semifinal game against Esquimalt on Saturday morning, which they won 24-19 in what Atkins described as “a back and forth game that was full of adrenaline.”

That sent Shawnigan to the gold medal game at Westhills Stadium in Langford, in front of the crowd attending the Canada Women’s Sevens. Avery Champion scored Shawnigan’s lone try and kicked the conversion as her team lost 24-7 to Belmont, a school that has taken advantage of its proximity to Canada’s training centre to start a sevens academy.

Shawnigan’s junior team had a more challenging road through the first round of their invitational tournament, splitting their first two matches before wrapping up pool play with a 38-0 victory that secured second place in their group. A come-from-behind 17-15 victory in the crossover semifinal put the juniors into their final, which was also played at Westhills. Overcoming early nerves, the Shawnigan players settled down and prevailed over Brentwood 17-12. Gerry Atkins, Ana Quinzanos and MacKinley Bourne scored Shawnigan’s tries, with a conversion by Abbey Kaye.

“Due to injuries, these girls had no subs all weekend,” Shannon Atkins noted. “Both their work rate and desire pushed them over the edge to victory.”

Brentwood coach Marius Felix wasn’t able to attend the junior final because he had to run the rest of the senior tournament at Brentwood, so an assistant coach took the reins, but Felix was still excited as Brentwood and Shawnigan added another chapter to their storied rugby rivalry, this time with two young sides squaring off.

“These teams will be lining up against each other for years now,” Felix said.

Deanna Cvitanovich, Abayah Hunt, Desola Ogunlade and Cailine Keirstead were standouts for Brentwood throughout the junior tournament, but the coach was pleased with his entire squad.

“The whole team just played really, really well,” he said. “We are pretty excited about the core of Grade 9s and 10s.”

While the 16 senior teams had to qualify for their championships, the junior tournament was an invitational, although Felix felt the group featured “essentiallty the top eight from around the province.”

The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds also participated in the senior tournament, and got off to a strong start in pool play with two wins and a narrow 7-5 loss to the top Fraser Valley team from Earl Mariott.

“It was a difference of them scoring in the middle of the posts and Cowichan scoring in the corner,” T-Birds coach Sherry Spence said.

Cowichan lost to Shawnigan in the quarter-finals on Friday afternoon, but Spence felt her team was close to knocking off the eventual silver-medallists.

“Sevens rugby is a funny sport in many ways,” she said. “One or two missed tackles or bad bounces one way or the other —it’s hard to climb back in such a short time.”

The T-Birds ended up in the fifth-place game, where they crushed Handsworth 41-0.

Four local senior girls XV teams will be in action this Wednesday as they battle for Island championships.

Cowichan and Shawnigan will play at Shawnigan at 4 p.m. for the AAA Island championship. Both teams have already qualified for provincials.

Also at 4 p.m., Brentwood College will be the site of two AA semifinals, with Brentwood hosting Mark R. Isfeld and Frances Kelsey hosting G.P. Vanier. The winners of both games will qualify for their B.C. championships.

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