Allie White (L) and Gurpreet Dhaliwal (R) leave for Vegas on Wednesday
VANCOUVER - The debut of Rugby Sevens at the Summer Olympics may still be three years away, but this week 13 of British Columbia's aspiring women's Olympians are bound for Nevada to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational High School Girls Sevens.
While the BC men's U18 teams have excelled at the Vegas Invitational in recent years winning both the Elite and Open High School Divisions in 2012, this will be the first official BC provincial women's age grade team to tour.
Leading the squad into the 10 team tournament will be Cowichan-based coach Brad Skene and Vancouver's Pat Fleck, two of the province's top level coaches. The BC team staff began their selection process in December holding trials on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver and have since held training sessions building up to the tournament in the Lower Mainland.
While some of the players competed at the 2012 BC High School Girls provincial sevens last May, for many, this will be their first opportunity to compete in the seven-a-side version of the game.
"The players have adapted quickly to the sevens format and each session demonstrates vast improvements in their skills and technical knowledge," said Skene. "We are starting to see individuals come out of their shells and the personality of the team develop. These are hard working kids with a lot of passion and character."
Key players to watch on the squad are Abbotsford RFC's Gurpreet Dhaliwal and Cowichan Rugby Club's Ciel Arbour-Boehme.
"Gurpreet has shown a lot of experience with sevens after wining the BCHSGRA Sevens with Abbotsford Collegiate and the BC Summer Games with Fraser Valley. She is a fast and hard runner," Skene added. "Ciel is a younger player from Brentwood College who has a strong and confident voice on the field and has quick, gap finding feet."
A leader on the squad will be Allie White, who has played for Skene on the Cowichan Secondary School rugby team in recent years.
"Allie brings tremendous athletic talent to the field along with the experience of playing women's rugby with Velox Rugby Club," Skene added. "Her height will be an asset at kick-offs and her deceptive speed will catch players off guard. At times, it is difficult to decide where on a 15s team she best fits. With her outstanding physical skills set as well as rugby skills set, sevens may be where she is more suited. If she is able to continue to fine-tune her decision making ability during the Vegas Sevens, she will be a valuable offensive weapon."
The squad will be tested in a two-day tournament with a total of eight games to be played. Opposition includes a number of high school and invitational sides from both the USA and Canada. When the tournament wraps, the players will take in the Las Vegas Sevens, an official stop on the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series.
"Can you imagine being in high school and being able to travel to Vegas and play in an international tournament during the winter in rainy BC?" Skene said of his team's build up for the tour. "Vegas is an exciting place with the sights and the IRB Sevens at the same time. In the future, the venue will be one of the reasons why players want to try out and be selected for this team."
The BC U18 provincial team kicks off their tournament on Thursday at 9:00am against the Snow Canyon Warriors. All games are to be played at Heritage Park (located at 350 S Racetrack Rd) in Henderson.
Vegas Invitational - High School Girls 7s
BC Banshees, Castle Rock, Glendale HS Girls, Lowland Cannibals, Notre Dame Hounds
British Columbia, Bishop's College School, Snow Canyon Warriors, ICEF, B5
Vegas Invitational Schedule
Thursday, Feb 7
9:00am BC vs Snow Canyon Warriors
11:00am BC vs Bishop's College School
1:20pm BC vs B5 TBD
4:00pm BC vs ICEF
Friday, Feb 8
Finals and Placement Games
BC U18 Roster
Club / High School / Hometown
Ciel Arbour-Boehme (Cowichan Rugby Club / Brentwood College / Victoria)
Jamie Beck (Houston Secondary / Houston)
Nicole Crowley (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School / Cobble Hill)
Sophia DeGianni (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary / Abbotsford)
Sophie De Goede (Castaway Wanderers RFC / Lansdowne / Victoria)
Gurpreet Dhaliwal (Abbotsford RFC / Abbotsford Secondary / Abbotsford)
Autumn Garrett (Robert Bateman Secondary / Abbotsford)
Darien Hobday (Cowichan Rugby Club / Cowichan Secondary / Cobble Hill)
Brittany Reid (Cowichan Rugby Club / Cowichan Secondary / Shawnigan Lake)
Samantha Rumney (GP Vanier / Cumberland)
Adrienne Saari (Cowichan Rugby Club / Cowichan Secondary / Duncan)
Leah Theobald (Cowichan Secondary / Duncan )
Allie White (Cowichan Rugby Club / Cowichan Secondary / Victoria)
Coach - Pat Fleck (Vancouver)
Coach - Brad Skene (Cowichan)
Manager - Marlene Donaldson (Vancouver)
Apprentice Coach/Team Doctor - Dr. Matt Mortenson (Victoria)
BC Rugby would like to acknowledge the support of the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada and viasport for making this program possible.