CIS final coming to Queen’s

Barz, McEwen preparing to host Canadian championship

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
Fifth-year centre back Lauren McEwen is the all-time leading scorer among OUA women’s rugby players.

Women’s rugby coach Beth Barz has seen her workload double for the upcoming season, but you won’t see her complaining.

Barz, along with the rugby program and athletic department, has been tasked with hosting the CIS 2015 Women’s National Championship weekend from November 5-8.

It will be the first time in Queen’s history hosting the event.

Barz will have to juggle her significant role in the championship with her coaching responsibilities at nearby Syndenham High School. 

“It’s more of a facilitating role than anything else,” Barz said of her championship. “Everything’s looking set up well so far,” Barz said. “Our ticket sales and our marketing teams are really coming along nicely.”

Barz’s decade of coaching experience in the OUA and attendance at other CIS championships has helped ensure that both the bidding and hosting process for Queen’s went smoothly, while giving credit to the athletic department as well for their management of the process.

“Any time you get to host an event like this you want to do it well and show off your school,” she said. “You want to be a place that the CIS and the OUA will want to come back to, whether it’s for another rugby championship or any other event.”

While the ultimate goal would obviously be to win the national title at home, Barz said she isn’t feeling any extra pressure to win compared to any other year.

“You always strive to have a consistent program, no matter the year,” she said.

The Gaels last competed at the National Championship in 2013, where they represented the OUA as league champions, winning a bronze medal over McGill in a 32-24 match. 

Fifth-year back Lauren McEwen  is looking forward to her third appearance at the national championship, which in addition to the 2013 tournament also included a fifth-place finish in 2012. 

After a 4-1 regular season, McEwen and the Gaels’ 2014 campaign ended in defeat to close rivals the Western Mustangs, despite coming out victorious earlier during the regular season.

The Gaels lost in the OUA bronze medal game by a score of 22-19, which would have earned them a berth in last year’s championship.

“We had such high expectations because we were so good [during the regular season],” McEwen said, referring to last year when Queen’s had the highest-ranked offence and the second-highest defence in. Along with teammate Gill Pegg, McEwen was honoured at the end of the season as a CIS All-Canadian athlete.

 This year’s tournament consists of eight teams with Queen’s receiving an automatic entry as host, but the format hasn’t been confirmed. 

Barz said delays and postponements of CIS board meetings were a minor bother in determining the schedule, but the lineup of matches for the weekend should be announced in the next few weeks.

McEwen and Pegg, along with teammate Erin Geddes were selected to sit on a few of the board meetings, where they learned more about the intricacies of hosting a national championship event.

“You get to see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that most players wouldn’t usually see,” McEwen said.

McEwen noted the challenges of a national championship include a short amount of turnover between game times, with games often being played on back-to-back days.

“Most times you’d have a week in between games, and have time to plan for your opponent,” she said.

To prepare for the physically rigorous nature of the weekend, Barz and the coaching staff have set up an intense summer training program that includes playing a tournament that emulates the structure of the CIS event. 

Before the Gaels compete at the national level, however, McEwen said that it’s important to have a strong regular season and playoffs in the OUA.  

“We’ve got to be focusing on game-by-game, play-by-play.”

While the event will be memorable for those competing and students who attend, Barz said it’ll also attract others from the surrounding area to check out the event. 

McEwen added that it’ll provide an opportunity to show off Kingston, the university and their athletic facilities. 

“We definitely have one of the nicest rugby pitches in the country,” she said. “Queen’s has done a great job of creating a professional rugby culture.”

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