Members of the Bayside Sharks women’s team still remember exactly how it felt last fall to lose the Anna Schnell Cup – and to a hated rival, no less.
The sting of that 6-0 defeat to Burnaby is not one they’d care to feel again, coach Kyle Ferguson insists, which is why spirits are high this week as the team comes off a 29-22 win over their Burnaby foes. The win also improved the first-place Sharks’ record to a perfect 4-0 in Lower Mainland Tier 1 women’s rugby standings.
“We didn’t beat them last year, and the girls were saying that they don’t think they’ve ever beaten them,” added Ferguson, who is in his second year coaching the team.
“So it was a pretty good day, last Saturday.”
The Sharks have two games left in the fall regular-season schedule – they host Meralomas Saturday, 11:30 a.m. at South Surrey Athletic Park – before semifinals and, if all goes according to plan, the league finals, with the winner awarded the Schnell Cup. The Sharks have already qualified for the premier league in the spring.
“It’s been a really good season so far,” Ferguson said.
The team has certainly come a long way in the two years since Ferguson has come aboard. During the last spring season, the Sharks lost in premier league semifinals to the eventual champions from Velox (Vancouver Island), and two seasons ago, the team finished right at the bottom of the premier league standings.
Part of the reason for the improvement, Ferguson said, has been the influx of youth onto the roster. The team currently boasts four players still in high school, including Tanya Lee and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary Grade 12 student Alex Mueller, both of whom scored tries Saturday against Burnaby.
In fact, Mueller, who like the other three rookies also plays on Bayside’s U19 women’s team, is the fall league’s leading point-scorer.
“The younger girls have really stepped up and played well, and it’s pushed the (veteran) players too, I think,” Ferguson said, adding that the team also had a handful of players just one year removed from high school.
“They know the younger girls are out there wanting to play, and stay on the field… it’s been a really good mix.”
Ferguson also credits injured player-turned-assistant coach Joanna McLennan for helping turn around the team’s fortunes this season.
McLennan is sidelined with a knee injury, so Ferguson asked her to stay with the team in a coaching role.
“She’s been great, a very big help. It’s taken a little bit of work off my plate and allowed me to focus on other things,” he said.