Rugby record-holder

After a pair of injuries, reigning MVP has become prolific scorer

Lauren McEwen has tallied 163 points during her four years with the Gaels
Image by: Arwin Chan
Lauren McEwen has tallied 163 points during her four years with the Gaels

In four years, Lauren McEwen has gone from injured rookie to Queen’s highest-scoring women’s rugby player of all time.

The fourth-year centre back has racked up 163 points since rolling into Kingston in 2011. That number looks all the more impressive considering she struggled through shoulder injuries in both of her first two seasons with the Gaels.

Women’s rugby head coach Beth Barz said she admired the effort McEwen put forth in bouncing back from shoulder surgery in consecutive years.

“I think the hardest thing for an athlete is coming back from an injury because your body isn’t doing what you want it to do,” Barz said. “The ability to push back and basically say ‘no I’m going to do this’ is pretty incredible, especially when you’re going through the same surgery twice — well, one shoulder and then another shoulder — and it really hasn’t held her back at all.”

McEwen’s breakout campaign happened last year, when she tallied 54 points and was named the OUA Russell Division MVP on the way to Queen’s first provincial title.

She’s upped her play to a greater level this year. Her 87 points through four games are more than twice as many as the league’s second-highest scorer.

Barz said McEwen’s presence is equally strong off the field, where her lead-by-example style benefits her younger teammates.

“She does a lot of chatting with people, either in practice or in terms of explaining things,” Barz said. “By all means, she’s somebody the first- and second-years all look up to and want to emulate.”

Part of the reason for McEwen’s added offensive output over the past two seasons came from being named to Canada’s Under-20 women’s team in the summer of 2013.

With the call to the national team came a temporary positional change. McEwen switched to flanker from centre back, marking her first time playing forward.

She said the position shift helped develop the defensive and physical sides of her game, as well as her ability to read opposing offences at a higher level.

“It was such an incredible experience, because I got to focus on parts of my game that I usually don’t get to focus on,” McEwen said. “I remember coming back and Beth being like ‘you’re not the same player’ because my defence just got a lot better.”

At the same time she improved her defensive game, McEwen also worked on becoming stronger at kicking. This season, she’s connected on 22 converts and a penalty goal.

Part of the reason for this is an increased in-game focus. McEwen said she makes a point to write “ice” on her wrists prior to games.

“To be cool as ice and not get riled up and not get fired up, just be cool,” she said. “See the game in slow motion and just read and react.”

While her mind is mostly preoccupied with rugby and the Gaels’ opportunity to repeat as OUA champions, McEwen said she uses her time as a Fine Arts student to take a mental break from rugby.

“I don’t really like to intertwine my two worlds,” she said. “I like to have the separation. I think about rugby all the time, except when I’m painting. It’s so nice to have that break from the constant obsession with the sport.”

Tomorrow’s match against the Western Mustangs marks the Gaels’ final regular season game. While McEwen said she’ll probably return to Queen’s for one more year — hopefully for teacher’s college — she’s also thinking about the end of her university career, and the chance to improve on last year’s result.

She said the team’s goal for this year is to capture a CIS championship, after placing fifth at the tournament in 2012 and winning national bronze in 2013.

“I’ve been thinking about that lately, of my final chapter to my book,” she said. “It’d be so nice to have that last sentence in my book be ‘and we won CIS gold.’”


Athlete profile, Barz, McEwen, Women's rugby

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