Queen’s one of four provincial teams leading women's rugby national polls

Ontario takes stronghold in Canadian rankings

The CIS top ten as of September 22.
The CIS top ten as of September 22.
Graphic: Rachiel Liu

Although the women’s rugby season is relatively young, one thing is already clear — it’s Ontario’s sport. 

Currently, three of the four top teams in national rankings are from the OUA conference. The one Ontario outlier, Ottawa — who plays in the RSEQ with teams from Quebec — sits one spot above Queen’s in third place. Queen’s fellow Ontarians, Guelph and McMaster round out the top two. 

One of the major advantages to playing in a competitive league like the OUA is the preparation it gives for later on in the season. Battling it out on the field early on in the year gives teams an early indication of where they are. It’s not only important to the schools, but the athletes as well. 

In a sport like rugby where physicality is central to the flow of a game, a softer regular season schedule could be ideal, allowing teams to rest players and prevent injury. 

While head coach Beth Barz has suggested in the past that there should be more time between games leading into the playoffs, she welcomes the idea of competition during the regular season.

“For our athletes who are preparing to go on to represent their provinces and help us represent Canada, it’s really important that we have those games to put them under lots of pressure so they can see how they’ll still stand up.”

With Queen’s playing their next two games against McMaster and Guelph, their true colours will show. For the looming national championships in November, only two of these three top ranked teams will get to represent the OUA. Last year, Guelph was left out despite coming second, because Queen’s was given the last OUA qualification spot as the tournament hosts. 

For Barz, it’s too soon to think about the playoffs.

“We’re doing all that we can do to be there and realistically that’s a conversation to have in six weeks.”

There are some difficulties that come with the competitive OUA off the field — especially in recruiting. 30 of the 34 Gaels this year are from Ontario, making the province a “battleground” for recruiting with Guelph, McMaster, Ottawa and Western.

Barz believes that there are multiple things that attract student-athletes to Queen’s.

“The traditions, and the enthusiasm, and the focus on academics — to me those are the things that make us special and stand apart.”

This has been a long time coming for Barz. In her 16 years with the Queen’s rugby program, she’s noticed one constant trend — the type of athletes she has on the field. 

“One of the unique things we have at Queen’s is that we have overachievers who come to this school and are ready to work,” she said. “They’ve been overachievers their entire life and they’re used to putting in the extra time and the extra work in order to be that much better than the next person.”

Up next for Queen’s is a rematch with the defending national champions, McMaster Marauders, this Friday.

Last year, the two teams split their season series. Queen’s won a 15-14 comeback thriller early in the season, while the Marauders got the last laugh and the taste of gold when they beat the Gaels on Nixon field in the CIS national championship.

With schedules released in the latter half of this summer, Barz and her team has been ready to avenge last year’s loss for a while now. Just looking at her team through two games, it’s clear that Queen’s is motivated. Currently, the Gaels are second in the OUA in points-for with 160 and sport the league’s best defense, only allowing an unprecedented five points-against.

“We have done that work and I think we are ready and I think we look forward to playing a good game at McMaster on Friday.”

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