May 21st, 2024

Horns looking for a second chance


By Dale Woodard on October 27, 2021.

With a berth in the U SPORTS National Championships on the line, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s rugby team will get its second look at the University of Victoria Vikes in as many weeks.

The Pronghorns and Vikes will square off in the first semifinal of the Canada West semifinals Thursday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. in Calgary.

The top-seeded UBC Thunderbirds will take on the host Calgary Dinos in the second semifinal at 2:30 p.m.

Winners of the semifinals automatically qualify for the U SPORTS Championships hosted in Kingston, Ont by Queen’s University.

Following a 29-0 loss to the Vikes Oct. 17 in Victoria, the Horns get a shot at redemption in what will hopefully be friendlier conditions than the ones they faced on the coast two weeks ago.

“I think one big takeaway was they were pretty shallow, we can really attack them wide,” said Pronghorns fifth-year back row Sara Cline. “That’s the advantage of playing in a dry area. We really kind of struggled with it being wet. So I think we’ll really stretch our width. We saw a similar width against the University of Calgary where we came back and had a really good game plan. So I think it’ll be great to challenge ourselves like that against U of Vic come Thursday.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Horns ran through one more practice before boarding the bus for Calgary today after what has been a demanding schedule to round out a 3-3 regular season.

In addition to their 29-0 loss to the Vikes Oct. 17, the Horns were also defeated 76-5 by the Thunderbirds three days prior.

The weekend before, the Pronghorns downed the Dinos 22-14 at the University of Lethbridge Stadium.

“Four games in 15 days is always a lot,” said Pronghorns first-year head coach Graeme Moffat. “We still trained a bit last week, but our focus was on recovery and regeneration and we were able to do that. The girls have been excellent this week. Training was high energy (Monday) and we were really accurate. We’re excited to play on Thursday. It’s a huge opportunity for us. We were disappointed with how we performed on the coast. I think you combine some fatigue and playing against some good competition and the fact we hadn’t played in the rain in a couple of years certainly had an affect on our performance. But we’ll be better for Thursday.”

Under Moffat, the Pronghorns improved to 3-3 record this season after finishing 2-4 in the 2019 season and moved up to third spot in a close Canada West conference.

Lethbridge swept two games with the Alberta Pandas and split their two-game series with the Dinos before their back-to-back losses on the west coast to the Thunderbirds and Vikes.

With a group of experienced forwards, the Horns were led by fifth-year lock Abby Duguid, who was named a Canada West All-Star in 2018. She finished second on the team in tries, but contributed on both sides of the ball.

Pronghorns flanker Gwen Fillinger led the Pronghorns in tries with five in six games, tying fifth-year scrumhalf Caitlin Sears for the team lead in points. That also tied Fillinger for fifth in Canada West scoring.

Sears, who was injured in the Horns’ win over the Dinos, kicked three penalty goals and eight converts in four games.

The 3-2 Vikes swept the visiting Alberta schools this season.

Both of their losses came at the hands of the undefeated Thunderbirds, including a 44-10 loss last weekend.

Victoria had 15 different players score at least one try during their five games this season. Larah Wright led the Vikes with three tries, while six others had two tries this season.

The Vikes have won the last nine games against the Horns.

Still, spirits are high heading into Thursday’s semifinal.

“There’s an extra spring in their step,” said Moffat. “The girls are excited. Hopefully we equip ourselves well and have our best performance and give the senior players a sendoff they deserve. If we win on Thursday that will be great, but ultimately we control our destiny on how we perform. So that will be something we have to focus on.”

“It’s so exciting,” added Cline. “I think this year our energy is so high. It’s so nice to have Moff as a part of the team. His enthusiasm and planning has made our season just that much more exciting. So I think it’s really great to show U of Vic what we have. I think they’re going to underestimate us, for sure.”

The Canada West gold medal game goes Sunday at 1 p.m. following the bronze medal game at 11 a.m.

The games can be watched on http://www.canadawest.tv.

Follow @@DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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