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Humber Women’s Rugby Team gear up for all University tournament Sports
By Linda Huynh
The Humber women’s Rugby sevens team have left the city to embark on their hopeful journey to bring home a medal in the National Sevens University Championships in British Columbia.
Dominating their opponents during the regular season, the women’s team were crowned OCAA champions after a shutout win against Connestoga College with a final score of 50-0. Hoping for similar results in the tournament, Christina Branch, captain of of the team said she is nervous because they drew a tough first round robin.
“It’s our first game against a team (University of Saskatchewan) we haven’t previously played against, but I’m also quite confident because I believe we have a strong team,” said Branch.
Along with the University of Saskatchewan, the Hawks will be facing OUA champions Guelph University. The women’s first match will begin shortly after 1 p.m. Ontario time, which gives the Hawks a full day to prepare. Despite having their flight pushed back three hours Branch said she is settled in and ready for the two-day tournament.
“We were supposed to leave at 8:30 p.m. but got pushed back until 11:30 p.m. so I got plenty of sleep. Our day today is all about prepping for the tournament, we have a video session today and then practice,” said Branch.
Humber is the only college that gets invited to The National Sevens University Championships, a tournament. It is the seventh year in a row the tournament is taking place with 12 teams competing for the gold medal. It’s not the first time Humber has been present for the tournament, but it is the first time that they have had a full season to prepare.
“Honestly I think we have improved so much. Our first time playing sevens as a team was last year at this tournament and there were a lot of fifteens players on the team last year, but it was a good experience for them and I believe the transition for them has gone really well and will further continue while we compete here,” said Branch.
Rugby sevens, a new program that began in the fall for the Hawks is a faster, more versatile style of play, compared to the traditional game involving 15 players.
Branch competed last year with the Hawks and said as a team playing sevens for the first time, they didn’t do the greatest but also didn’t do the worst. Dale Essue, Head Coach says he’s been preparing for the tournament all season.
“The team has really grown and come together nicely. They have played a really nice brand of rugby all season. I believe they are ready for this tournament. It’s not going to be easy but I know they are excited to battle it out. These girls love competing against the best,” said Essue.
Being the only college competing this year against all universities, Essue said that isn’t something that will intimidate them.
“We may be considered the underdogs, but I know we have proven ourselves in the past against most of these teams. If we have the title as underdogs, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. At the end of the day everyone is playing rugby, it will come down to which teams make the least amount of mistakes,” he said.
The tournament is known for its potential for bigger opportunities as Canadian scouts evaluate players for their potential. Emmanuela Jada, a winger for the national team made her debut last year as a Guelph Gryphon.
“It was just a lucky game for me. My teammates were there for me and set me up to look good for the scouts,” said Jada. She was approached after the tournament and offered a position to train with the national team, which is now her home.
“It’s crazy how fast everything changed. I am grateful for the opportunity and never take a day for advantage because the competition continues to grow in Canada for the sport of rugby,” Jada said.
All eyes will be on the Hawks to bring home another title as the tournament starts tomorrow.