This past weekend, the Queen’s Women’s Rugby team competed in the 2021 OUA Championships finals, falling short to the Guelph Gryphons 32-23 in the match on Nov. 6.
Although the team went undefeated throughout the regular season—which included a 31-3 victory over the Gryphons in October—the women couldn’t execute their typical winning strategy under the lights at Nixon field last Saturday.
Dan Valley, the head coach of the team, was quick to identify the areas the team lacked during the game in an interview with The Journal.
“We didn’t spend enough time defensively on their half of the game line. We were letting them run at us and we are at our best when we are taking away their time and their space and their air and not letting them build up any sort of momentum.”
The Gaels led the way for the majority of the first half until back-to-back tries were scored by the Gryphons, creating a two-point difference heading into half-time.
Although the Gaels retook the lead early in the second half, the Gryphons responded by scoring multiple tries, ultimately extending their lead to nine ahead of the final whistle blow.
Commenting on Guelph, Valley acknowledged how strong of a competitor they are, and proclaimed them to be one of the top four teams in the country.
“[Although] we did a lot of things well, Guelph played exceptionally well. If Guelph plays that well in the [the upcoming U Sports Championships], they are probably in a national final,” Valley said.
“Nobody likes losing […] but we highlighted that it’s the close games—the games where we are not winning by 80 points—that are the exciting games and the reason why we came to Queen’s to play rugby.”
When asked how Valley motivates the team through times like these, he said it comes down to taking the pressure off the team to win titles.
“Removing the context is super important. [Forgetting that it’s] an OUA final and treating it just as a rugby game with an opportunity to play against a very good opponent.”
The benefits of this mentality have proven to be successful. The team has had an exceptional season thus far, posting an undefeated regular season.
In general, Valley attributes the team’s success to everyone’s trust in the development of the program.
“We are [focused on being] technically and tactically strong, we work incredibly hard in the weight room [… and the] program [that has been built over the last four years] is now operating at its peak.”
Prior to last Saturday’s game, Valley was awarded OUA coach of the year for the second consecutive season. His overall record with the team over four seasons is now 13-3.
Heading into the U Sports Championships this week, Queen’s will now play in the OUA second seed bracket. Their first game will take place on Nov. 10 against the UBC Thunderbirds at Nixon field.
Speaking to the tournament, Valley noted the results from the OUA Championships will not interfere with the team’s attitude or game plan when preparing for this weekend’s championships.
“We are just going to take it one game at a time [… and] apply what we learned from the game on Saturday against Guelph. If we come out and do those things, then we give ourselves a very good chance to be successful,” Valley said.
“You can expect a very talented group of girls [ready to] come out and get the job done.”
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