By Christie Melhorn, November 1 2017 —
On Oct. 22, the Dinos women’s rugby team’s force and resiliency in the Cananda West (CW) tournament helped them claim the conference title. In a cutthroat match against the University of Victoria Vikes at McMahon Stadium, the team pulled through for a 26–21 finish. Their 6-0 record marks another undefeated season for the Dinos. However, this achievement didn’t come easily, demanding strong commitment from all players.
Fifth-year kinesiology major and hooker Emily Tuttosi says the team effectively handled unforeseen circumstances in the CW final.
“In our final, one our starters went down 15 minutes in, which was tough. She does a lot of work for us on the pitch,” Tuttosi said. “But the girls who came in to the fill that role knew what they had to do.”
Head coach Simon Chi also credits the team’s cohesion under pressure and says the recovery of key players helped secure their win.
“A lot of [earning the conference title] was a few tactical adjustments — people stepping up in the right scenarios,” Chi said. “Getting a couple bodies back from injuries was huge. There was no room for error so we had to play conservatively.”
Fifth-year arts major and prop DaLeaka Menin says the team’s collective desire to succeed overpowered insecurities on the pitch, despite the game’s intensity.
“[The Vikes] scored on us with nine minutes left and were up by two. But what was weird was we weren’t panicked,” she said. “Everyone had the attitude of, ‘No. We’re going to get back in and score.’ There wasn’t any ‘Awe guys, we need to get it together.’ Losing wasn’t an option.”
Menin says the team’s senior players shared experience over the last few seasons drove everyone to push until the bitter end.
“We’ve experienced getting a couple of silvers and bronze. We’ve constantly been working towards a higher goal and getting so close but seeing it slip away,” Menin said. “We know what it takes to get further — we have 15 girls on the field who will dig deeper because we don’t want to relive the past.”
Tutossi says the versatility of drills used by Chi in practice helped the team prepare for the CW tournament.
“Every practice, we come in with the attitude we want when we’re playing. If start off slow, we recognize that won’t get us where we want to in games,” she said. “Simon tosses different scenarios our way — experimenting with different zones and tolerating different weather — he keeps us on our feet to prepare for those tough games.”
Chi also humbly recognizes the team’s strong work ethic and energy during the CW tournament.
“As a coach you’re always happy about seeing your team succeed. And that was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been involved with — it was electric. The championship was on the line literally down to the last play,” Chi said.
While the team was excited about their win, the demands of student-athlete life didn’t leave room for celebration.
“We savoured the moment but were in the mode for sleep and school. It was good for everyone to go their separate ways and get caught up on their lives,” Tuttosi said.
The Dinos are now preparing for this week’s USports Championship. On Nov. 2, they face the Queen’s University Gael’s at 11 a.m. in Lethbridge. Chi says the minimal recovery time between tournaments is challenging but is confident in his team’s abilities.
“The format of these championships isn’t optimal for these athletes. The last two weeks, we’ve played two games in three days. Now we’re playing three games in four days. That density of games is intense,” Chi said. “But that’s what we have to do. We’ll pull it together.”