The women’s rugby team did not medal this year — but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve had a season to be proud of.
The Badgers faced the Queen’s Golden Gaels in the semifinals. Queen’s is the top ranked rugby team in Canada, so nobody had high expectations for the team going into the match. Queen’s, as expected, dominated the scoreboard and led 31-0 at halftime. The Badgers pushed for offensive opportunities, but they were few and far between against the best team in the country. The closest they came to a try was when fullback Lane Hessels exploded up the field, nearly scoring. Queen’s recovered and made a heroic tackle to keep the Badgers off the scoreboard.
Taylor Knezevich kicked a penalty to earn the Badgers their only three points of the match.
They may have lost the game in Kingston, but they had a second chance in the bronze medal game against McMaster. They lost that game 41-3 as the Marauders went home with the bronze and the Badgers went home empty handed.
“Everyone was disappointed in our loss at McMaster. We all thought the game would go better than it did. We went into the game as the underdog hoping to upset,” said head coach Mark Smerdon.
The loss certainly wasn’t ideal and the Badgers would have liked to have scored at least one try in the match.
“Parts of our game were exceptional however we still have some work to do to compete at this level,” he said.
The Badgers had a tougher season this year, as new members of the OUA Shiels division. The game was elevated and the players were challenged in a way that they didn’t quite expect to be.
The game at McMaster wasn’t the note they wanted to finish on, but it’s important to look at the entire season when evaluating their results.
Was it a disappointment? Not quite, in order for it to be a disappointment they would have had to fall short of expectations and the Badgers set incredibly realistic goals for themselves.
It was a season of adjustment. The players had to get used to a new coach and new teammates. They were promoted to the Shiels division and had to adjust to tougher competition. Given the circumstances, the Badgers achieved everything they set out to.
Three Badgers were named OUA All-Stars: Sara Shaw, Niamh Haughey and Kiara Stecko.
Going forward, Smerdon and the coaching staff are going to expect more from this team, this season might not have been a disappointment but Smerdon knows what to expect now.
“We will challenge each player with goals in the off-season and the summer. We will also recruit hard to get top players to come to Brock,” he said.
When head coach Mark Smerdon took the job in the summer, he set his sights on a fourth place finish; they’ll worry about contending for medals in the years to come. Smerdon wanted the team to maintain their position in the Shiels division, they didn’t need to dominate, but they needed to play their best. For the most part, they did. They improved defensively and structurally and held their own against many of the bigger teams. They were aggressive at the breakdown, positive on the bench and optimistic (but never over-confident) about their chances.
They tightened their structure, fixed their defensive shortcomings and learned to rely on team performances rather than individual ones.
“We all knew that this was and is the beginning of a new era of Brock Women’s rugby and when we reflect on what we have accomplished in two short but intense months, we can all be very proud and excited for the future,” said Smerdon.
The Badgers have a plan, and this year was just the first step.