June 17th, 2024

Coyotes look to make a good run at provincials

By Lethbridge Herald on June 7, 2023.

Herald photo by JUSTIN SEWARD Chinook Coyotes Alyssa Larkin attempts to hand the ball off to receiver Marah Stonehocker during practice last week.

By Justin Seward

Lethbridge Herald

The Chinook Coyotes senior high school  rugby teams are gearing up to hopefully go on a long run at provincials this weekend in Calgary.

For the senior boys team, they were faced with a win or go home scenario on Monday in the Tier 1 zone final and ended up beating Medicine Hat 36-12.

“They should be very proud of the effort that they put on to the pitch on Monday because Medicine Hat High School runs an incredible program,” said Coyotes head coach Connor Kopp.

“That was a difficult game for us and that’s something  that I hope taking from that game (is) the ability to remain tough mentally and knowing  that we as a team are strong rugby players. And reminding ourselves that no matter who we go up against, it’s always going to be a battle, especially as we head into these last three games of the season up in Calgary.”

 Kopp thinks it is important for the Coyotes to stick to their brand of play.

“Not responding to other competition, but staying true to who we are as a rugby program in terms of our set piece (and) in terms of the intensity that we bring to each game,” said Kopp.

The Coyotes’ mentality all year long was to take one game and one week at a time.

“And by building off of these smaller goals, we’re leading towards these bigger things,” said Kopp.

“So of course this is something that our program was hoping to earn because a playoff berth is always earned, especially coming out of the south with rugby and the way it is. Like it’s tough competition down in southern Alberta. So to have that spot earned after each week has been awesome.”

Graduating player Gage Blasco thinks the team is going into provincials on a pretty strong point.

“We’re in a higher seed, so we’ll be going up against some stiff competition,” said Blasco.

“But I think we can give a good show up in provincials.”

Blasco said last year, nobody really knew the game of rugby.

“And we were all just focusing on the learning of the  game and the dynamic of the play,” said Blasco.

“As where this year, we’ve really been refining our play. And yeah, just in terms of all our set pieces, like our scrums and our line outs, we’ve added a lot more in terms of strategy.”

Whether the Coyotes win a provincial banner or not, what’s most important to Blasco is giving it one last run at provincials with all his teammates that he has played with for years.

This will the senior boys second consecutive trip to provincials after finishing eighth last year and will go in as the seventh seed this year.

As for the girls senior team, the club is feeling ready after coming off the zone final loss to Winston Churchill and will be the wild card team for Tier 2.

“This week, it’s been a lot of tactics, strategy, fine tuning plays (and) just working all the kinks out,” said head coach Alaya French.

The girls team has speed and depth that they’ll have to use to their advantage if they are to have success.

“We have speed in our forwards, speed in the backs and we have great rucking in our forwards and the backs,” said French.

“Like we are a well-rounded, very talented (and) very athletic team.”

Brooklyn Gurney thinks it will  be key to play together and keep their spirits high, even if they are down, and try their best.

“I think it’ll  kind of be the mental game of how big of a deal it is (and) probably getting over that and just getting to competing at our best,” said Gurney.

There are no players on the roster who have provincial experience.

“Well it’s just the same old,” said French.

“Like you take it like its every other game. You come in and you play your game (and) do what you got to do.”

ASAA Provincials are on June 9-10 in Calgary.

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