Orcas, Totems prep for girls rugby provincials

Both the Elgin Park Orcas and Semiahmoo Totems will be vying for a provincial title in their respective divisions when B.C. senior girls AAA rugby championships kick off next week.

Both teams will be in Port Alberni for the provincial tournament, which is set to run May 22-24; Elgin will compete in the tier 1 bracket, while Semiahmoo will play in the second tier.

Elgin is coming off a third-place finish at Fraser Valleys, and will head to provincials seeded sixth.

So far this season, they’ve had trouble against some of the higher-ranked AAA teams – losing to No. 1 seeded Yale and No. 3 Cowichan earlier this season – but despite the losses, head coach Johan Mynhardt said his team is comfortable with where they stand heading into the tournament.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses, relative to the other teams we’ll face, and we’ve played many of them before, so we are comfortable with where we are,” he said.

In Fraser Valley semifinals earlier this month, Elgin lost 27-7 to Yale, but rebounded to defeat Clayton Heights – another top-10 team that will be at provincials – 17-0 for third place.

Mynhardt said the semifinal game versus Yale could have turned out differently, had his club kept their collective foot on the gas pedal.

“They’re a great team, but we dropped the ball against them. They are a beatable team, and we had them, but we didn’t finish,” he explained.

Starting strong, but fading late, has been a problem all season against top teams, he added.

“We dropped the ball against Yale, and against Cowichan (in an exhibition game) and earlier in the season against Clayton, too,” he said.

Playing well – at least for portions of games – against top teams does give Mynhardt confidence that his girls can fare well this week.

“Hopefully we won’t drop the ball anymore,” he laughed.

Elgin’s No. 6 ranking is as high as the team has been slotted since the late-’90s, when they finished fourth at provincials, Mynhardt said.

This year, a top-three finish is the goal.

“The goal is always to finish higher than you went in,” he said. “We’d like to medal. We know it won’t be an easy go of it, by any means, but we are confident.”

Semiahmoo, meanwhile, will be aiming for a Tier 2 banner, though coach Dave Kaye said it might be tough considering his team will be playing shorthanded – in addition to a few injuries, a handful of key players are not likely to make the trip to Vancouver Island due to work or other commitments.

“If we’re fully all there, we’d probably be in contention for that title, but as it stands now, it might be tough,” Kaye said.

The Totems were fifth at Fraser Valleys, having defeated the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers 45-0 in the fifth-place game.

Kaye said his team – which is very young, with a handful of junior-aged players – tends to fare well on the scoreboard when they’ll able to play a speedy, fast-paced game. Conversely, they often struggle against older, bigger competition.

“We’re young and we’re smaller, so we like to run when we can – but some of those bigger teams don’t always let you,” he said.

If nothing else, this year’s trip to provincials will serve as valuable experience for members of his team that will be back next year.

“We’ve learned to play defence, and we’re hopefully on a development curve here where we are a year, maybe two years, from competing back at that first-tier level.”

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