No CIS spot

Women miss out on OUA hardware

Queen’s failed to repeat as provincial champions, falling to the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA semi-final.
Queen’s failed to repeat as provincial champions, falling to the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA semi-final.

It was a season of both triumphs and disappointments for women’s rugby in 2014.

With the specter of last season’s OUA championship looming over them, the Gaels faced a different hurdle than previous seasons. Defending a title is one of the hardest tasks for any team, and for the Gaels, it proved their most difficult challenge.

The team kicked their season off on the right foot with a 61-12 victory over the York Lions, but a missed convert on a late-game try cost them their next match, against the McMaster Marauders. The 21-20 loss pushed the Gaels into second place in the OUA Russell (East) Division.

Co-captain Loren Baldwin said the potential of a repeat put added pressure on the Gaels.

“I think that there was a lot of pressure to be the best,” Baldwin said. “Whenever we were under real pressure, we crumbled.”

The Gaels responded well initially, easily winning their next three games against the Toronto Varsity Blues, the Trent Excalibur and the Western Mustangs. The Gaels finished the regular season with a 4-1 record, behind McMaster for the division title.

In their first playoff game against York, the team put forward both a strong offence and defence.

The 41-21 victory set up a semi-final showdown with the perennially strong Guelph Gryphons. That game proved troublesome for the Gaels, ending in a 29-21 loss.

With an opportunity to claim OUA bronze and a spot at the CIS tournament, Queen’s then fell 22-19 to Western the following week.

In what seemed like a constant back-and-forth between the two teams, Queen’s was unable to put the tying points on the board, running out of time after mounting a second-half comeback attempt.

Co-captain Danielle Underwood said the Gaels couldn’t connect the two phases of the game well enough to get the desired result.

“All season, we would have great offensive games and great defensive games, but they just never came together at once for us to reach our true potential,” Underwood said.

She said the team will be training over the off-season to improve on what kept them from a repeat performance.

“We'll have a bit of recovery time for all the injured bodies and then we will begin off-season training,” Underwood said. “It's likely that we'll work on improving our physicality and smoothing out our transitions between attack and defence.”

There were some positives on the year, especially the play of centre back Lauren McEwen, the OUA’s point leader.

She dominated the league this season, scoring 103 total points and ending the year as Queen’s all-time leading point scorer.

McEwen was named a CIS All-Canadian this year, alongside teammate Gillian Pegg. The pair were joined on the provincial All-Star team by back Miranda Seifert and forward Melody Clarke.

There’s a possibility that Clarke, McEwen and Pegg won’t return next year, in addition to several other important veterans. With the Gaels slated to host the 2015 CIS championship, though, it seems likely many of them will opt to return.

Underwood said the chance to play in the tournament again is an enticing reason to stay.

“It's definitely tempting to come back for CIS next year, especially with all the emotions we're feeling right now,” she said.

“All of the fourth-year players have so much love for this team. It's hard to imagine not playing next year, so I guess we'll just have to see what happens.”

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