Veterans gun for title run

After falling just short, women’s rugby looks to finally seize an OUA championship

Last October, the Gaels fell 10-6 to Guelph in the OUA championship. They’re one win away from returning to the title game.
Last October, the Gaels fell 10-6 to Guelph in the OUA championship. They’re one win away from returning to the title game.

The Gaels women’s rugby team is one win away from heading to CIS nationals for the third time in four seasons.

Led by eight third-year players and seven fourth-years, the veteran-laden Queen’s team is enjoying the most successful stretch in its program’s history.

In the past three years, the Gaels have earned two OUA silver medals and one bronze, coming agonizingly close to dethroning the Guelph Gryphons in last year’s league championship.

While Guelph has won the last five OUA titles, there’s nothing Queen’s graduating players would like more than to finally win an elusive gold medal before hanging up the cleats.

The Journal sat down with third-year centre Lauren McEwen, third-year forward Jordyn Rowntree and fourth-year fullback Natalie Poirier prior to this Saturday’s semi-final matchup with the Western Mustangs.

The veteran trio discussed the current season, their relationship with Gaels head coach Beth Barz and a potential rematch with Guelph in the OUA final.

How would you describe your team’s performance this season?

McEwen: I think it’s really starting to get a lot better. We’re starting to peak. I know we’re going to peak by nationals, and every game we seem to get better and better.

There are a lot of third- and fourth-year players on this year’s squad. What are some advantages of having such a veteran-laden roster?

Poirier: It means we have a lot of leadership and a lot of experience, both on the field and off the field. These are little things that help make a winning team.

Is there any extra pressure or motivation this season, knowing that it’s the last chance for many players to win an OUA title?

Rowntree: I don’t think we’re looking at it as having pressure to win, because at this point everybody just wants to win regardless. Pressure implies fear, and I don’t think we have fear — it’s more of a desire that we feel that we can go out and reach our goals.

A potential rematch with Guelph in the OUA gold medal game is a distinct possibility for the third time in four years. Is there anything different about this year’s team that gives you confidence heading into the game?

Rowntree: I definitely think how we played against them last year [a 10-6 Queen’s loss] will be a big confidence booster. We know we were so close to beating them. And I think this year, we all have that extra bit of confidence to go into that game and win it.

Poirier: We also got to play them in the preseason and even though we weren’t necessarily playing our first string line-up against their first string line-up, it gave us a good idea of what their team is like.

How was the experience of playing in last year’s final, coming so close to defeating the powerhouse Gryphons?

McEwen: It was probably the hardest game I’ve ever had to play, both mentally and physically. I still sometimes lay awake at night thinking about that game and how close it was.

Rowntree: It was one of those games where everybody did their job right — everybody clicked and trusted each other. If we do that again in this year’s match, I have no doubts we’ll win.

What’s been your favourite memory so far in your Gaels career?

Rowntree: We have a team flag that we have that says “Ohana” on it, which means family [in Hawaiian]. When we made the flag together, we all put our hands on it and we knew that we were all part of a family.

What kind of a coach is Beth Barz and what impact has she had on this team?

McEwen: She’s the reason I came to this school, because she had coached me before at the national level. She really cares about her athletes and you don’t find a lot of coaches like her.

Poirier: She’s really dedicated and is always looking to improve her own coaching style. She’s always willing to do things to help her athletes, whether it’s related to rugby, school or just life in general.

After you’ve played your final game for the Gaels, what kind of player do you want to be remembered as?

McEwen: A very relentless, ruthless, insane and even psycho player. Someone who never gave up even if she got tackled down a few times.

Rowntree: My teammates described me as tenacious last year, so I think I’ll stick with that one.

Poirier: I’d say a calm player [laughs].

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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