Rugby players making pitch for national titles

A handful of youth rugby players from Surrey and White Rock are in Calgary this week, as B.C.’s provincial rugby teams aim for national championships.

B.C. has six teams taking part in the National Festival Rugby Championships, which began Tuesday at Calgary Rugby Park and wraps up Saturday with playoff rounds.

The Semiahmoo Peninsula will be well-represented at the U18 women’s tournament, as Maira Acevedo, Alexa Martin and Taiid Haines-Young (all from Elgin Park Secondary) and Cassie Baldo (Earl Marriott) are on the roster.

Team BC’s U18 men’s roster is also dotted with local talent, including Joe Carter (Lord Tweedsmuir/Bayside), Matt Gallagher Semiahmoo Secondary/Bayside), Brendan Kennedy (Tweedsmuir), Gavin Rowell (Bayside) and Dylan Vermette (Surrey Beavers).

Four from Surrey will also suit up for the provincial U17 boys team – Keenan Houde, Kevin Johnston and Liam Morrison (Earl Marriott) as well as Cody Kehler (Clayton Heights).

The U16 girls side – which will be looking to defend its national title from 2013 – features Tanika Bonneville (Elgin Park/Bayside), Sage Homeniuk and Jordynn Senay (Tweedsmuir), and Berlyn Seselja and Jodi-Ann Wang (both from Semiahmoo).

As defending champions, head coach Jen Ross knows her squad will be in tough against hosts Alberta and historic rivals Ontario.

“As always, we will be expecting big, fit girls from Alberta and highly skilled and tenacious play from Ontario,” Ross added. “It will be exciting to see how our girls, who are for the most part new to representative rugby, respond to the pressure these two great teams will put on us.”

BC will have two different U16 boys teams on the pitch in Calgary – a gold and blue team – with locals part of each squad.

Wylie Gillette, Jackson Silvester-Lee and Michael Smith (all of Earl Marriott), Jared Thind (Southridge) and Colton Zayshley (Tweedsmuir) are all part of the gold team, while the blue team features John Jubenvil (Earl Marriott).

The U16 boys’ gold squad is the three-time defending national champion.

“Our pre-tournament training sessions have been physically and mentally demanding for the players,” BC gold-team head coach Mike Stiles said in a release. “Through this type of training, I expect the team to exceed their own expectations.”

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