Rugby X-women ready for an­nual Thanks­giv­ing ex­hi­bi­tion tour

Blue and White to wrap up reg­u­lar sea­son at Aca­dia

The Casket - - Sports - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

The St. F.X. X-women rugby team will spend Thanks­giv­ing on the road, once again, try­ing to carve up op­po­nents in ex­hi­bi­tion ac­tion.

Over the hol­i­day week­end, the Blue and White will kick-off against the U Sports’ top-ranked and de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion Ot­tawa Gee Gees, along with the fifth-ranked Queen’s Gaels.

Dou­ble­head­ers against the Gees Gees and Gaels, re­spec­tively, will be played Oct. 5 and 6.

“It will be a step up and a tremen­dous test for our team,” X-women head coach Mike Ca­vanagh said, in com­ment­ing on the level of com­pe­ti­tion they ex­pect to face in On­tario.

Joanna Alphonso, three-time At­lantic Uni­ver­sity Sport (AUS) most valu­able player, said the road trip “will def­i­nitely test our skill and abil­ity.”

“Meet­ing those strong teams will be a great chal­lenge for us – show­ing us where we are at, and where we have to work to get to where we want to go,” she added.

Chop down Ax­e­women

Af­ter lop­sided vic­to­ries over the Saint Mary’s Huskies (76-12) and UPEI Panthers (69-5) to launch the reg­u­lar sea­son, the X-women faced their first test, when they hosted the ri­val Aca­dia Ax­e­women, Sept. 22, at Oland Sta­dium.

“I thought we came out pretty fired up in the first half,” Ca­vanagh said, af­ter the 36-17 vic­tory, not­ing the X-women had the wind at their backs for the open­ing 40 min­utes.

“Our for­wards played very well and our backs, ac­tu­ally, ran the ball very well in the first half, so I was very happy with that, and we also de­fended well.

“In the sec­ond half they had the wind and they used it to their ad­van­tage. We left our foot off the gas, I think, a lit­tle bit,” he added.

Alphonso said the X-women, who led 36-5 at the in­ter­mis­sion, “let up on our in­ten­sity.”

The team leader added that can­not hap­pen. She noted fo­cussing on fit­ness, along with men­tal tough­ness and hard work, will help end that ten­dency.

“We tend to go hard in the first half and then [let up],” Alphonso said.

Ca­vanagh added the X-women can­not let up, es­pe­cially against a qual­ity op­po­nent, such as Aca­dia.

“If you give them an inch, they will take it. They have some good team speed,” he said.

Alphonso and fifth-year se­nior Olivia De­mer­chant scored two tries apiece, while Han­nah El­lis and Sophia Parker col­lected one apiece for the X-women, while Danielle Franada kicked three con­verts.

“We will have to play them, prob­a­bly, two more times this year and it shouldn’t get any eas­ier,” he said of the Ax­e­women.

When asked about where his team stands, the vet­eran bench boss noted the win over Aca­dia was the first time this sea­son St. F.X. “fielded our best play­ers” at one time.

“It gives us a good bench­mark,” Ca­vanagh said.

He added “we have some work to do, but we are, def­i­nitely, mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

The home stretch

The first of those two an­tic­i­pated meet­ings will take place in the AUS reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale Oct. 14 in Wolfville.

And, un­less there is a ma­jor up­set in the con­fer­ence semi-fi­nal match-up, the sides will also clash in the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game.

Kick-off will be on the home field of the first place fin­isher in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“We still haven’t peaked yet,” Ca­vanagh said, not­ing the youth in the X-women back­field.

“They are start­ing to get more and more con­fi­dence – they are start­ing to see the field bet­ter.

“Like I said, I re­ally like the way our team is headed,” he added.

Not­ing the X-women are “pretty young,” es­pe­cially on the back line, Alphonso said they have “stepped up to the plate.”

“They have shown us that we can trust them and that they are do­ing their best,” Alphonso said, not­ing the X-women are “work­ing well to­gether.”

“Our for­wards are re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced. We have al­ways been a dom­i­nant for­ward team and that will help carry us into na­tion­als and re­ally ben­e­fit us there.”

Aca­dia will host the 2018 U Sports Women’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship from Nov. 1 to 4 in Wolfville.

Corey Leblanc

Af­ter earn­ing a 36-17 home vic­tory over the Aca­dia Ax­e­women in AUS rugby ac­tion, Sept. 22 at Oland Sta­dium, the St. F.X. X-women had some fun dur­ing their vic­tory cel­e­bra­tion with a card­board cut-out of head coach Mike Ca­vanagh.

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