Vancouver, BC: The British Columbia Senior Women's Provincial Team kick off their title defence on Thursday, June 30th when they face off against fourth-seeded Alberta in the semifinal round of the 2011 National Women's League Finals.
The reigning champs welcome back a number of familiar faces to their team including head coach Jason Young, who led the squad to an undefeated 2010 campaign culminating in a 34-22 championship victory over arch rivals Ontario.
Leading the squad on the pitch will be Canadian international 15s and Sevens star Brittany Waters. The dangerous back who excels in the centres, was selected as team captain for the 2011 tournament. The World Cup veteran has come a long way since debuting on the rugby pitch while attending the University of Victoria and now applies her trade with Kitsilano based Meraloma Rugby Club.
"Both [Assistant Coach] Pat Fleck and I feel that Brittany has the tools to be a great captain," Young said of the recent selection. "The team truly respects her both on and off the field. She leads by example with her dedication to the game and the choice she has made to being an elite athlete. She will lead BC proud at the 2011 NWL tournament."
Waters will have no shortage of experience alongside her when BC opens their 2011 campaign on home soil at the University of British Columbia's Wolfson Fields. As well as Waters, four other players from last year's NWL championship roster that went on to represent Canada at the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup will suit up for BC. Three key members of BC's forward pack and Team Canada include veterans Marlene Donaldson of the Velox Valkyries, and Burnaby Lake Rugby Club standouts Corinne Jacobsen and Kim Donaldson. Another key component to the squad is World Cup veteran and Burnaby Lake standout Julia Sugawara, a versatile player with the ability to perform at both scrum half and fly half.
Alongside their Captain in the back line, BC boasts a number of dangerous scorers in their arsenal including Velox RFC's Jess Dovanne and Capilano RFC products Andrea Burk and Darcy Patterson. Burk played a key role in last year's championship run, leading all scorers at the national championship with 31 points through two tries, three penalties and six conversions.
Although BC has claimed four of the last five NWL titles and appeared in every championship match since the tournament's inception, Young was cautious when talking about their semifinal opponent Alberta and the advantage of playing at home.
"Alberta will be tough and they have a lot of senior and Under-20 national players. They gave us a good game last year," Young said. "Home field advantage is a good thing for us. It gives the women an extra incentive to player in front of their friends families and supporters. It adds pressure, but in a good way."
The BC Senior Women kick off their Tier One title defence on Thursday, June 30th at 1:30pm. In the other Tier One semifinal scheduled for 3:00pm, second-seeded Ontario will face off against third-seeded Quebec.
BC will also be represented by provincial teams competing in the Under-20 competition, and by their Under-23 squad in the Tier Two competition.
For more information on the National Women's League Finals in Vancouver, visit www.nwlrugby.com
NWL Finals Details
Date: June 30 - July 3
Location: Wolfson Fields, UBC (Vancouver)
Divisions: Tier One, Tier Two, Under-20
Thursday, June 30 at UBC's Wolfson Fields
10:00am: (Tier 2) Saskatchewan vs New Brunswick
11:00am: BC U20 vs Manitoba U20
11:45am: (Tier 2) Ontario U23 vs BC U23
12:45pm: Ontario U20 vs Alberta U20
1:30pm: (Tier 1 Semifinal) Alberta vs British Columbia
3:00pm: (Tier 1 Semifinal) Ontario vs Quebec Cariboux
Friday, July 1 at UBC's Wolfson Fields
11:00am: (Tier 2) Ontario U23 vs New Brunswick
11:00am: Ontario U20 vs Manitoba U20
12:45pm: BC U20 vs Alberta U20
12:45pm: (Tier 2) Saskatchewan vs BC U23
Sunday, July 3 at UBC's Wolfson Fields
9:00am: Manitoba U20 vs Alberta U20
9:00am: (Tier 2) New Brunswick vs BC U23
10:45am: (Tier 2) Ontario U23 vs Saskatchewan
10:45am: Ontario U20 vs BC U20
10:45am: (Tier 1 Consolation Final) Loser Game 3 vs Loser Game 4
12:30pm: (Tier 1 Championship Final) Winner Game 3 vs Winner Game 4