December 15th, 2017

Horns bolster rugby ranks

By Yoos, Cam on September 20, 2017.

© Lethbridge Herald photo by Tijana Martin Bradee Ellingson, left, Sarah Gordon, Brittany Orr and Karlee Durfey have signed with the Lethbridge Pronghorn womenÕs rugby team. However, it's this is not the first season for Gordon or Orr, both have played rugby for the Proghorns before. @TMartinHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

With their Canada West season ready to kick off Thursday, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s rugby team welcomed two new players to the fold.

Two familiar faces returned as well.

On Tuesday afternoon at the 1st Choice Savings Centre at the U of L, the Pronghorns announced the signing of Raymond Comets’ duo Karlee Durfey and Bradee Ellingson.

Meanwhile, a pair of Pronghorns from yesteryear also returned as Brittany Orr and Sarah Gordon come back for another tour of duty that will including the Horns hosting the 2017 USPORTS Rugby Championships, Nov. 2-5.

Durfey and Ellingson helped the Comets to a provincial title in the spring. In the Southern Alberta High School Rugby League season, the Comets went 6-0, outscoring their opponents 240-12.

“We’re excited to have them join the program,” said Pronghorns associate coach Ashley Steacy, who will work alongside head coach Neil Langevin this season after the unexpected passing of Pronghorns head coach Ric Suggitt at the end of June.

“It’s always exciting when you’re a new athlete coming into a program. You don’t really know what to expect. But they’ve integrated into the team so well. They have great personalities and their talent is just raw. They’re physical and I’m excited to see what they can show and bring to the team. They have a lot of potential.”

Orr returns after six years away from the Pronghorns for her fifth year of eligibility and returns to begin working towards a master’s degree in nursing.

During her first stint with the Pronghorns, the five-foot-four centre was a multiple Canada West All-Star and the CIS Championship MVP in 2006 when the Pronghorns won their first national title.

Gordon’s last stint with the Pronghorns was in 2015, the Pronghorns last trip to the CIS Championship.

That year, she was a CIS Championship All-Star and was part of the Pronghorns upset of the Calgary Dinos at the Canada West Championship that season.

“Sarah and Brittany are going to be absolute phenoms for us and they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team,” said Steacy.

“They know exactly what it is to be a Pronghorn and they emulate that already on the team for the first-year girls. They’re helping to build that culture and their rugby skills speak for themselves. They’re both dynamic and see the field very well and they’re going to be threats on and off the field.”

Durfey, a five-foot-six prop, finished second in league scoring with seven tries and 16 converts for 67 points for the Comets. Now she moves to the university ranks.

“It was close to home and when I talked to Ric he was really nice and welcoming about it. He told me it would be a good plan for my future,” said Durfey.

As she begins her university career, Durfey brings the experience from the dominant Comets program.

“The last season was really good. The unity there was great and I just hope to find that here, too. So far it’s going really well.”

Ellingson was also looking forward to joining her fellow Raymond product with the Horns.

“I’m excited to get to know all the girls and playing my heart out on the field and getting better every day,” said the prop, who was tied for third on the Comets in tries last spring with three.

With the Pronghorns regular season home-opener Thursday, the two newest Horns have two exhibition games under their belt.

“I love it,” said Ellingson. “It’s definitely a big difference physically from high school, but it’s awesome. I love playing with the girls, just the high spirit on the field.”

Orr returns to not only a program she’s familiar with, but the coach as well.

“Ashley and I have known each other since we were young and I feel like we’ve always been players that have really pushed each other, respected each other and had a lot of fun playing together,” she said. “It’s been a pretty easy transition to have her as a coach. I’ve always looked up to her as a player and the type of leadership she brings to any rugby program she’s been a part of. It’s been really good.”

Gordon’s last go-round with the Pronghorns ended in injury.

“So it wasn’t my choice,” she said. “So it feels really good to come back and step in with a whole new group of girls. We had a bit of a change in plan with the passing of Ric, but we’re still eager to get back and work well with this new group and chase the goal.”

Gordon also returns to play for a familiar coach.

“I was really fortunate to play for Neil when he was coaching previously,” said Gordon. “The word that comes to mind is ‘excitement’. Everybody is so excited. It feels like a new group and we’re very eager to play under Ashley and Neil. They have such amazing energy and they’re the kind of coaches that make you want to work hard and turn up at practice at 5:30 in the morning and grind it out because you respect them so much as people and as coaches. We’re really lucky to have them back.”

The Pronghorns open their season Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Calgary Dinos at the University of Lethbridge.

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