After three gruelling days of training and testing at the Shawnigan Lake School-based Sevens camp, Coach Tait and Coach Fiorino have selected the two teams that will be representing Canada at the first ever IRB sponsored Womens Sevens event.
“Selecting the teams has been a challenging task, as the women have approached this camp with a high level of intensity and competitive drive. It’s been very valuable to have our top athlete’s vying head-to-head for the National jersey. Opportunities like this are likely the most demanding training our athletes do all year”, commented Tait.
The Canadian team that will seek to have a clean sweep of 2011 tournament titles is loaded with familiar faces to the Sevens National team. Leading the way are strongholds Mandy Marchack, Jen Kish, Brittany Waters, Ashley (Patzer) Steacy and Ghislaine Landry. Each having contributed to Canada’s wins at Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Amsterdam; the veteran athletes are keen to finish 2011 on a high note.
Joining them are Quebec’s Magali Harvey who earned her first sevens cap at the Las Vegas event, Victoria’s Barbara Mervin and having made her return to Sevens at the Amsterdam tournament; Julianne Zussman. Rounding out the veteran athletes is Ontario speedster Cheryl Phillips, who had the opportunity recently to tour to Barbados to provide leadership to the Maple Leafs Development team, who also captured that tournament title.
The important Dubai tournament will be the stage for Victoria-based Jess Dovanne’s return to the National Sevens Team. Dovanne is a prominent member of the Velox Valkyries Club and has four previous sevens caps under her belt. Earning her first Sevens cap is 21 years old Kayla Moleschi. Moleschi’s involvement in the Sevens program is a direct result of the program's coast-to-coast search for talent, this past year. A product of BC’s Williams Lake Womens Rustlers Club, Kayla is yet another outstanding athlete to emerge from University of Lethbridge’s varsity rugby program.
The Canadian side will face Brazil first, followed by Spain and conclude day one pool play versus the 2009 Sevens World Cup Champions Australia. In pool B, USA, China, England and South Africa will vie for advancement to the Day 2 Semi-finals and Championship matches.
Also participating in the Dubai tournament in the International Invitational bracket is Canada’s Maple Leaf team. Veteran National team athletes Andrea Burk and Megan Gibbs will be cornerstones to the squad, with experience from Kelsey Willoughby and Brittany Orr whom earned their first Sevens caps earlier this year. Fresh off the tour to Barbados, Ontario’s Laura Russell and Julia Greenshields will again suit up for the Maple Leafs. Both Russell and Greenshields had good shows in Barbados with contributions to Canada’s undefeated play; with Greenshields earning tournament MVP accolades.
Perhaps the largest gains, however, will be for the remainder of the Maple Leafs squad who will be making their international sevens debut. With a standout performance at this year's CIS Championships, Natasha Turner will anchor the forward pack, joined by Kayla Mack. After earning her place on this past summer’s Nations Cup fifteens team, Saskatchewan’s Mack will be a powerful addition to the Maple Leafs' efforts.
There will be no shortage of speed on the team with both Aurora’s Lindsay Anderson and Quebec’s Karen Paquin adding to the offensive efforts. Rounding out the Maple Leafs roster is recent addition to the Sevens Camp Charlotte Vallieres-Villeneuve, hailing from Quebec.
“The opportunity for our development program to get in more quality games is paramount to our program's continued success. We are making incredible gains in bridging the gap between our top 12 Sevens athletes and the next dozen competing for those coveted spots” explained Coach Tait. “The Dubai event will not only provide the opportunity for our National side to compete against top teams like Australia who we have yet to play, but will provide top level competition for the Maple Leafs in the Invitational section of the event”.
With a handful of days left for the pre-camp at Shawnigan Lake, the two sides continue to do much of their training and preparation together. Thursday and Friday sessions will provide most of the athletes their first glimpse at their soon to be home- the Centre of Excellence Training Facility in Langford. Come January, this group will centralize to allow daily training under the guidance of Tait and Fiorino, something that the Women’s Rugby Program has not done before.
“With the support of the Own the Podium Program, these Sevens athletes will no longer have to fly in from home communities every time we need to prepare for our upcoming Sevens events. Now we will train daily, with the support of our many other services and staff. 2012 will continue to build on our stirring year to