Flyers in uncharted territory
Eden girls rugby team captains Emma Wylie, Leah Schouten and Roxy Lewis.
The Eden girls rugby team has made history.
By virtue of its 6-0 penalty kick victory over Blessed Trinity in the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association, the Flyers are the first girls rugby team in school history to qualify for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships.
“It feels unbelievable and it is crazy. Everyone on our team was either new this year or last year and it is so incredible to see everyone’s development lead up to it,” team co-captain Emma Wylie said.
She credited the team’s coaching staff for the squad’s development.
“We have unbelievable coaches. They are so committed to our team and to our development and it was everyone’s insistence on being better and being encouraging.”
Members of the team didn’t know they had made history until later when coach Stef Pavlovich posted the news on the school’s Instagram feed.
“We were all so excited about the win and finding that out a day later was the cherry on top,” Wylie said. “It makes it a little more special but either way I am so proud of our team.”
She expects that success can help build the program even more.
“Especially because everyone is new. It highlights our coaching staff, what they can do and how amazing the sport is.”
Team co-captain Leah Schouten knew early on the team was capable of qualifying for OFSAA.
“We had played with the same girls as last year and we had the one goal of making it to OFSAA. We didn’t want to set the bar low. We wanted to set it high,” she said. “We wanted that goal of going to OFSAA and our skills just came together throughout the season. We knew if we kept going the way we were going we had a shot.”
Last year, the Flyers lost in the SOSSA final.
“We didn’t get as much playing time last year so our coaches put us in a lot more tournament so we definitely got the exposure this year,” Schouten said.
The SOSSA final was insane with Akira Grieve and Madelaine Templeman winning it with penalty kicks. Renee Engel was up next but wasn’t need.
“It was so intense and the pressure that was put on those girls that were kicking was crazy. I could never have been in the position that they were in,” Schouten said. “I would say 95 per cent of the time we were on defence. There was a point where the ball was inches from the end line and our girls didn’t give up. We have a saying where you play until the whistle and even if you think it is in, you keep playing.
“Winning on kicks was this crazy, immense feeling and everybody as just so happy.”
The victory celebration was bedlam.
“Their kicker went up for their second kick and it was a little bit of a faulty kick. I didn’t know if it was going to be a rekick and there was a little bit of a delay. Then the ref blew his whistle and everyone on the sidelines began running and we were jumping,” she said. “Actually my coach got jumped on and dislocated her shoulder. She had to get rushed to the hospital and I think she was crying tears of joy and pain.”
Co-captain Roxy Lewis had a simple explanation for what made the team special.
“Our team is super passionate. A lot of the team is new but we were all willing to learn and we worked really hard. We have come a long way,” she said. “The passion comes from the love of the game and from each other. We lift each other up and we support each other.”
Lewis is a huge fan of rugby.
“I love teamwork aspect. When one of us is down, there is someone there to pick them up. It’s a community.”
She felt the team got better and better during the season.
“We have improved a lot in terms of skills. A lot of the girls were new to the game but we were excited and eager to learn.”
The Flyers practised three or four times a week for an hour and a half and played in tournaments on the weekend.
“It was a very busy schedule,” Lewis said.
Schouten felt there was a turning point in the season.
“There was a time about halfway through when we just got on this high. Everybody was just working well together, practices were going smooth and we got that high at the right time. Going into SOSSA, we got out stuff together.”
The OFSAA AAA championships are June 5-7 in Bolton.
“Our goals for OFSAA are to stay true to ourselves which is being positive, being encouraging and going into every game playing like it is any other game,” Wylie said. “We need to focus on communication, staying together and playing as a team. We win and lose as a team and it is not just the girls on the field. It is everyone on the sidelines too.”
During the season, Eden: went 6-1-2 in tournament play; defeated A.N. Myer (33-0) and West Niagara (60-0) in league play; blanked West Niagara 53-0 in the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association zone final; defeated Hamilton Sherwood 39-0 in the SOSSA semifinals; and then edged Blessed Trinity in the SOSSA final.
Members of the team, coached by Pavlovich, Sam Houston, Frank Schilte, Chi Palata and Tegan Teeple, were Oyin Adeyemo, Vasiliki Angelakopoulos, Courney Burnison; Jaelyn Cameron, Ashlynn Caverly, Kya Cleare, Karlyn Coveney, Violet Dueck, Makenzie Dunn, Cheyene Edwards, Engel, Hailey Epp, Madeline Essmail, Grace Gill, Grieve, Kristina Grynevych, Marissa Haine, Emily Hambleton, Ellyot Hannon, Mackenzie Harmer, Madi Haverkamp, Sara Hepworth, Kaia Jeffery, Julia King, Isabella Lewis, Roxy Lewis, Fiona Mernica, Alyssa Nieuwets, Iye Ogunkeye, Nasia Prifits, Viki Prifits, Meadow Racine, Keira Reimer, Tessa Riediger, Schouten, Tristan Snoei, Templeman, Alex Vamvakaris, Lauren Vanderwier, Bella Winter and Wylie.