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After three days of competitive play for the Women’s Rugby CIS Championships in Kingston, the McMaster Women’s Rugby team hopped back on the bus with a heavy piece of hardware and had to make room for some championship gear.
For the first time in program history, the Monilex trophy was awarded to the McMaster Marauders and has now found a place on the McMaster sports trophy wall.
Early on, CIS gold was the goal for this talented squad. Their vision was clear and the team knew that everything had to come together to attain the national title.
“Our goal was to win nationals and that was our focus. We had a positive energy. We were prepared. We knew it was possible,” said Colleen Irowa, prop.
Head Coach Shaun Allen set the championship tone early on with the team as every practice was one that helped the team get closer to the opportunity of claiming CIS gold. Last year, the team came second nationally and was awarded silver. The team knew that they could get back to that spot and even end the season better.
“From our very first meeting this year, we talked about what the path would look like. We knew we had to win the OUA championships to get to the CIS championships. We knew when we got there, we have a good team and as long as we stayed healthy, we would have the chance to compete for a national championship,” said Allen.
To advance to the CIS Final game, the team had to win both the quarterfinal and semifinal game.
In the quarterfinal game, the Marauders played Lethbridge Pronghorns and won with a dominating score of 62-14 and qualified to the next step where they played against the Ottawa Gee-Gees defeating them 14-8.
Sunday afternoon’s gold medal game was against the Queen’s Gaels, host of the championships weekend and a team all too familiar to the Marauders. McMaster was 4-1 in the regular season with the only loss at the hands of the Queen’s Gaels.
Though the Gaels prevailed in the first game of the season a month ago, the outcome was very different this time around. With a game deciding the home of a trophy and banner, the pressure was on for both teams.
The Gaels put the first points on the board and it was 7-3 at the half.
The second half of the game played out a lot differently than the first as the Marauders were more in sync and noticeably more confident.
Wind was in favour of the Marauders for the second half, but a factor like that does not stand for a talented team. The win was no fluke and that is apparent in the final score.
Irowa was able to score a try in the first two minutes of the game. Points came from Irowa Cindy Nelles, Katie Svoboda and Steph Black.
Though a handful of the roster got points on the board, it was very much a team game and one that relied on everybody on the field for success.
“It’s a team sport that is truly built around team work and trust,” said Allen.
The lead for the Marauders quickly turned from a four point lead to a 24 point lead as the final score was 27-3 when the whistle was blown.
It was an emotional moment for a team that has risen to greatness together.
“It’s bittersweet. Sweet because it was nice to win it for all of the people that have been working for years. Bitter because we worked so hard to get here and now it’s over.,” said Irowa.
For a program with OUA banners, individual player awards and a national title in Rugby Sevens tournament under their belt, this national championship title was a true testament to the team’s hard work and talent.
“We’ll have this at home forever,” said Irowa.
This past Tuesday, the team was recognized in the David Braley Athletic Centre. Adorned in CIS championship shirts, snapbacks, gold medals resting around the necks of the players and huge smiles, the celebration was one that showed humility more than anything else.
With the celebrations slowly coming to an end for the team, they will have some time to digest their history-making win and will look forward to preparing for this year’s Rugby Sevens tournament.
“There are no off-days,” said Irowa.
Photo Credit: Ian MacAlpine