Cowichan Valley rugby player Chloe Storie-Soth was faced with a tough choice earlier this year when she had to decide between playing for the U18 national XV team or a U19 girls elite sevens squad, both of which have international tours this month.
The U18 national team will travel to California at the end of December for a two-game series against the U.S. U18 side, while the U19 elite sevens team is in New Zealand this week for the World School Sevens tournament, the first Canadian team to take part.
Understandably, it wasn’t easy to choose between the two huge opportunities.
“I had to make that decision, to play for the U18 team or sevens,” Storie-Soth recalled earlier this fall.
A Grade 12 student at Shawnigan Lake School who grew up in Cowichan Bay, Storie-Soth agonized over the options, and talked to the coaches at both teams before making her decision. She had to consider which would make her a better rugby player.
“It took me a week to decide,” she remembered. “There were so many phone calls. It took so long, they were like, ‘We need an answer.’”
It came down largely to the fact that she is still young enough to try out for the U18 XV team again next year.
“The coaches basically said that for my long-term development as a player and to keep more doors open for sevens, it was a better option to go to New Zealand.”
The sevens team will play more games in their tournament, and against a higher level of competition, as opposed to two games against the U.S. for the XV team.
“I’ll develop more and get more game time,” Storie-Soth said. “It will be better for me as a player.”
The New Zealand trip runs from Dec. 7-16, while the San Diego trip is for four days between Christmas and New Year’s. Storie-Soth did look into the possibility of doubling up.
“I wanted to do both,” she said. “But they wouldn’t let me.”
The U18 XV team won’t be entirely without Cowichan Valley contributions, however, as Duncan’s Madison Jumeau, who currently plays for the University of Victoria and Castaway Wanderers, will be making the trip to San Diego.
Having made her decision, Storie-Soth was looking forward to the opportunity to play in New Zealand.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’m excited to play against some of the best players in the world for my age. It will be a great challenge playing with the Kiwi girls. They play a different style of rugby down there.”
A longtime soccer player, Storie-Soth started playing rugby in Grade 9, her second year at Shawnigan.
“I didn’t know what rugby was until I came to Shawnigan,” she said. “It’s amazing how fast life can change.”
She was competing in an inter-house track and field meet when a coach saw her run the 100m and told her to come out for rugby.
“She recruited me, I guess you could say, for my speed.”
Speed was Storie-Soth’s biggest asset at the time, but she has added other skills along the way.
“I’m really good at reading the field. I know how to create opportunities. I still use my speed, obviously.”
The physical side of the game also appeals to her.
“I like a good, old straight-arm,” she admitted.
The chance to represent Canada internationally has opened Storie-Soth’s eyes to other opportunities that are out there.
“I never really knew what was available until this year, because rugby is still new to me,” she said. “I’d love to play for the Canadian sevens team in the Olympics. That’s my biggest goal. To win a medal would be amazing.”
Sevens could take Storie-Soth to the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean it’s her favourite form of rugby. That’s another decision that’s too hard to make.
“Everyone asks me that question. It depends on the day. I can’t choose. Sevens is a ton of fun; I think there are a lot of amazing opportunities in sevens. XVs is an amazing game as well: there’s more time so you can really get into the game, but sevens is super fast. I love both. I can’t choose.”