LAS VEGAS - As the senior women's Las Vegas Invitational Cup Final was played out at Sam Boyd Stadium on Sunday featuring two Canadian squads, 13 of the province's national team hopefuls were in the stands taking in the match. The junior rugby players watching had just wrapped up their own tournament, representing British Columbia as the first ever official U18 women's provincial sevens team to tour.
In their first showing at a major tournament, the BC women placed third in the High School Girls Las Vegas Invitational, narrowly missing out on a Cup Final berth when they fell 5-10 to a senior Banshees squad in the semifinals. The BC provincial reps went on to blank Montreal's Bishop's College by a score of 26-0. Cowichan's Leah Theobald recorded a brace of tries with Houston's Jamie Beck and Abbotsford's Gurpreet Dhaliwal each tallying scores in the consolation final. 13-year-old Sophie De Goede, the youngest player on the team (8th grade), kicked three conversions to seal the win.
The squad went 3-1 in pool play recording 118 points for and allowed just 20 points against. BC opened their tournament with a 44-0 win over Snow Canyon Warriors, then downed Bishop's College 27-5 and B5 37-0 before falling 10-15 to Los Angeles' ICEF.
"It was amazing to see how quickly these girls bonded and absorbed the information in such a short time," said Marlene Donaldson, BC Rugby Girls Youth Development Officer. "They were put under pressure and I think they performed well especially considering how much younger we were than some of the opposition and since it was our first tournament playing together."
After three straight years of seeing BC's boys provincial teams compete in Vegas, Donaldson saw this as an important step in seeing girls rugby develop and provide more players the opportunity to get involved in higher level competition.
"It's important that these girls are put through the selection process and we all benefit from holding trials to see what players are available to us in the province," added Donaldson. "These girls need the opportunity to see what it's like to play above the high school and club level and they need to compete in high performance programs to develop their skills."
Holding open trials also provided coaches Brad Skene and Pat Fleck the opportunity to tap into communities where athletes may not have had the opportunity to already be playing club rugby. Houston, BC's Jamie Beck - a multi-sport athlete who also excels in track - showed her pace at the Vegas tournament and scored multiple tries.
"There are talent pockets across the province and we need to continue to hold camps to provide them access to these programs and with opportunities to excel," added Donaldson. "Jamie is a prime example of what athletes are out there and how they can perform in a sport like rugby sevens."
It's players like Beck and De Goede who have Donaldson excited about the program's future as at least eight girls from the 2013 squad will be eligible for next year's tour.
"We now have players that have been tested at this level and have shown that they can perform under pressure," said Donaldson "With someone like Sophie [De Goede] we could potentially have girls in this program for four to five years."
Top performers also included Cowichan's Allie White and Ciel Arbour-Boehme as well as Abbotsford's DeGianni.
Las Vegas Invitational Girls High School Division
British Columbia results
BC 44-0 Snow Canyon Warriors
BC 27 - 5 Bishop's College School
BC 37-0 B5
BC 10-15 ICEF
Cup Semifinals: BC 5-10 BC Banshees
Cup Consolation: BC 26-0 Bishop's College
BC U18 Women's Roster
Ciel Arbour-Boehme (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Jamie Beck (Houston Secondary)
Nicole Crowley (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Sophia DeGianni (Abbotsford RFC)
Sophie De Goede (Castaway Wanderers RFC)
Gurpreet Dhaliwal (Abbotsford RFC)
Autumn Garrett (Robert Bateman Secondary)
Darien Hobday (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Brittany Reid (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Samantha Rumney (GP Vanier)
Adrienne Saari (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Leah Theobald (Cowichan Secondary)
Allie White (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Coach - Pat Fleck (Vancouver)
Coach - Brad Skene (Cowichan)
Manager - Marlene Donaldson (Vancouver)
Apprentice Coach/Team Doctor - Dr. Matt Mortenson (Victoria)