Rugby stars headed to national tourney

Once again, B.C.’s rugby teams at the National Championship Festival in Calgary next month will be loaded with talent from the Cowichan Valley.

The U18 women’s team will be led by some veteran players from Cowichan Secondary and Brentwood College with plenty of experience at the elite levels of the sport. Adrienne Saari and Brooklyn Navarrete will be back for their second go-rounds with the U18 team, while Hannah Morten and Ciel Arbour-Boehme will be moving up to the U18 squad after playing for the U16 team last year, and Jenn Lemon will suit up for the U18s for the first time.

For all the players, it’s a big deal to make the cut for Team BC.

"It’s so exciting every time I’ve gotten the call," said Saari, who has played for her province in several tournaments. "You think it will be less exciting, but it’s always the same."

The players battled through an ID camp in May, then took part in the provincial regional championships – which Vancouver Island won – as the Team BC coaches observed. Then they waited on pins and needles for the call. Arbour-Boehme said she was "overcome with relief" when she heard she made the cut.

"I had heard they were starting to call around 7, to tell girls who made it," she said. "I waited for 43 minutes, then got the call: I made it," she recalled. "Brad Baker, the head coach, was calm and brief, and I was baffled and supremely happy."

While there are two U16 women’s entries from B.C. at the national festival, it’s twice as hard to make it at the next level.

"I’m way more excited about this," Morten said. "It’s been my goal for a long time. Everyone has to work harder to make [the U18] team."

All the players are fully aware of the pressure involved with playing for Team BC at the national level.

"The U18 team last year got silver," Morten noted. "Normally B.C. is in the final. Hopefully this year will be the year [B.C. wins gold]."

Arbour-Boehme is also prepared for the expectations.

"Playing with the U18 Team BC will be different because the coaching staff are extremely different than what I am used to; they are much more serious, and the backs-coaches are new to coaching," she said. "To say the least, I am looking forward, and thankful, to have the opportunity to be coached by them."

The players will be conducting a variety of fundraisers to help make it to nationals, including car washes, and a hot dog sale at Wal-Mart on Aug. 1 and 2, beginning around 11 a.m. Players will also be asking local businesses for support, and Saari has sent up a crowdfunding website at gofundme.com/b8bx90 Donations can also be dropped off at the Cowichan Valley Citizen office (251 Jubilee St. in Duncan) and will be shared with all the U18 women’s players.

Other local players bound for the national festival are McKenna Haz with the U16 women, and Kyle Joe, Lucas DeVries, Nicky Mouret, Seth Purdy, Connor McGarry, Karl Mattison and Alex Hedley with the boys teams.

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