By Woodard, Dale on July 18, 2017.
The former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns head coach as well as its most decorated player are returning to the women’s rugby team ranks.
The Pronghorns announced Monday former head coach Neil Langevin and former Pronghorn and Olympian Ashley Steacy will lead the team into the 2017-18 Canada West season.
The duo replaces Ric Suggitt, who passed away suddenly on June 27.
Langevin and Steacy will serve as head coach and associate head coach, respectively. with Steacy serving as a daily on-campus presence for the team, while Langevin will continue day-to-day his role with Winston Churchill High School.
“It has been a very emotional couple of weeks with Ric passing away,” said Steacy, who recently retired from international rugby at the end of the 2017 Women’s Sevens World Series. “He was an integral part of the women’s rugby program in the last three years and the girls really connnected with him and I had connections with him from the beginning on my rugby career. It’s very sad losing him, but (I’m) just hoping to bridge the program and keep it going forward and keeping the momentum going that he had gained with the girls.
“We have a big year coming up with Nationals and we just want to have the girls put in a great performance. We have some really talented girls and I’m looking forward to a really exciting year. With me being back with the Pronghorns, I couldn’t be more excited. The program holds a very special place in my heart and I’m excited to be back working with the program and Pronghorns athletics.”
Steacy led the Pronghorns to three CIS titles and four Canada West titles during her five seasons and was a two-time CIS Player of the Year.
She was also named both the Canada West and CIS Rookie of the Year in 2005.
On the international stage, she was a member of Canada’s Olympic bronze medal winning team in Rio and was also named to the 2014-15 Women’s Sevens World Series Dream team and Rugby Canada’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year for 2014.
“This is an exciting day for all of us associated with Women’s Rugby here at the U of L,” said Executive Director Ken McInnes in a release. “Having Neil and Ashley step up and take on the coaching duties heading into the 2017/18 campaign is the best possible outcome we could have hoped for with the passing of coach Suggitt.
“Ric’s passing was devastating for the entire Pronghorn family but with the dynamic duo of Neil and Ashley leading the coaching staff we will be able to maintain our focus on building a championship women’s rugby team.”
Langevin was head coach during the program’s inaugural season in 2000 and led the program to three consecutive national titles from 2007-2009, in addition to winning six consecutive Canada West titles starting in 2006.
The Pronghorns captured two other medals at the CIS Championships with Langevin – who has a 40-20-0 conference record – winning a silver medal in 2003 and a bronze medal in 2006.
Langevin won the Canada West Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2009 and was also named the CIS coach of the year in 2009.
“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor to work with,” said Steacy of Langevin. “I was looking forward to working with Ric this coming year and being mentored by him, but I have so much respect for Neil Langevin. He’s done so many amazing things for women’s rugby, not only in southern Alberta, but all across Canada. To be able to be mentored by him this year, I’ve very excited to learn and work beside him.”
The Pronghorns will host the 2017 USPORTS Women’s Rugby Championships in November and the Pronghorn women’s rugby team will play their first conference game Sept. 21 when they host the defending Canada West Champion Calgary Dinos.
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