By: Andrew Sarkis
The McMaster women’s rugby season came to an end on Sept. 29, losing to the division-leading Guelph Gryphons. In a head-to-head matchup between the number one and two ranked teams in the Shiels Division, the Gryphons came out on top, outscoring the Marauders 35-19 at Ron Joyce Stadium and putting the women’s team’s undefeated bid to a halt.
A year removed from finishing with a perfect record, it was not how the women’s team envisioned ending the season, but nevertheless, the Marauders capped off a successful four-game stint.
McMaster players Khadijah Brouillete, Maddie Cohoon and Britni French each had tries for the Marauders and kickstarted the offensive push, leading their team into the halftime break down 14-7. The game started to pick up, as both Cohoon and French intercepted Guelph passes, breaking away to score during the later parts of the game, although Guelph held a 28-19 lead and controlled play until the conclusion of the game.
The Marauders’ chance at a perfect season was diminished largely in part due to Guelph’s third-year fly half Julia Schell, who scored 15 points on the night. Schell scored one try and added five conversions, with her most important try coming at the later stages of the game, sealing the win for the Gryphons and leading them past the Marauders by a 16-point margin. Guelph finished the season undefeated, and made a statement on the Shiels Division, claiming the top seed.
Centre Britni French says she does not think much went wrong for the Marauders, mentioning the game against Guelph as being a tough and fair matchup.
“I don’t think anything went particularly wrong,” said French. “I think we had a great game… I don’t think they’re any better of a team than we are. It was a tough match up and we had a tough game against Queen’s the weekend before. Some people were pretty banged up… none of us are unhappy with the way that we played.”
The women’s team enjoyed a successful season due in part to many players evenly contributing to the team’s prolific offence. Over the course of their four games, the Marauders totalled 121 points and outscored their opponents in winning games by an average margin of 17 points.
“I think we play a very dynamic style of play. In rugby, a lot of teams tend to lean towards a typical punch it up forward, dominant game,” French said. “But I think we have a nice mix between using our forwards in an appropriate manner to punch the line, or using them out wide because of their great passing skills. We have some pretty speedy girls on the outside on the wing, so they’ve been super beneficial this year.”
A main factor, and large part of the team’s success, was eight-man Sara Svoboda, who led the charge offensively for the team over the year, finishing second in Ontario University Athletics scoring with four tries and 11 conversions on the season.
French says the team does not rely on any individual to carry the burden, though, citing overall teamwork as a key to their success.
“I wouldn’t say one individual stands out more than others,” French said. “Obviously, people put in a lot of work. I think in rugby, it’s such a team sport that I wouldn’t say our team is successful because of one or two people. I think it’s because everyone does their job and is doing it properly on the field.”
With the season now in the rear-view mirror, the Marauders are sitting comfortably as the second seed in the Shiels Division and are now shifting their focus towards the upcoming post-season.
As per the OUA playoff competitive structure, McMaster will have a bye through the quarterfinals as a benefit of finishing amongst the top two seeds in their division.
A total of six teams, the top four seeds in the Shiels Division and top two seeds in the Russell Division will qualify for the post-season. As two teams will be receiving a bye through to the semi-finals, only two quarter-final matches will be played, slated for Oct. 7. The semi-finals will be played on Oct. 14 with the ultimate champion of the OUA being crowned on Oct. 21.
The Guelph Gryphons and Brock Badgers pose interesting challenges to the Marauders. The Badgers present their own set of challenges and have yet to face off against the Mac women.
In the Russell Division, the Badgers have dominated games, finishing the season undefeated and outscoring their opponents by an astounding margin of 352-24. Their star player, rookie fly back Meagan Hart, concluded the season atop the OUA scoring with one try and 23 conversions. Brock will be matched up in the quarter-finals against the York Lions, with their eyes set on facing Guelph in the next round.
Though intensity is sure to pick up during the post-season, the team’s preparation will not be much different than to that of the regular season.
“We’ll look at a little more film to prepare for the most part,” French said. “I think we’ll focus more on ourselves and look at the few areas of the game we haven’t had a chance to focus on yet in practice.”
Looking to avenge their previous season’s second place post-season finish against Guelph, it is safe to say the Marauders will be highly motivated for their upcoming game. Led by a top scorer in Sara Svoboda and surrounded by a team hungry for success, it will be quite a telling tale to see just how far this team can go.
Time will tell as to who the Marauders’ semi-final opponent will be on Oct. 14, as they will await the results of the quarter-final matchup between the Laurier Golden Hawks and Queen’s Gaels. Either way, Mac is well-poised to end off their high-flying 2017 season with a strong playoff run.