Malvern’s ladies are immune to seasonal change.
Qualifying for OFSAA in the fall with their field hockey team, winter with senior volleyball and most recently their varsity rugby squad, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of raw talent in the Upper Beach.
But for co-coach Claudine Tyrell, there will be change once 10 of her charges, members of the AAA/AAAA OFSAA-qualifying rugby crew, graduate.
Especially with her two captains, Emily Pitre and Danielle Underwood, departing for Guelph and Queen’s respectively come September.
“They are consistent in their play even when they’ve had some of the hardest hits,” she said. “They get right back up and are ready to go.
“It’s definitely going to leave a dent in our team, the leadership that those two girls have demonstrated.”
A bulk of the girls team have been under the tutelage of Tyrell fellow coach Lesley Gage for four years.
This year proved to be the culmination of their efforts, turning young squires into battle-ready knights.
Undefeated in exhibition, two tournaments and the regular season, the Black Knights rode through the South Region as though they wield Excalibur.
In the city championships held May 24, Malvern easily handled Birchmount Park Panthers 28-0.
Heading into OFSAA in Thornhill the ninth seed, Malvern’s first game pitted them against eighth seed Sir Wilfred Laurier SS of Ottawa. A 10-0 win, with tries from Pitre and Hanna Bundy, moved the ladies into the championship side. Next was number one seed Barrie Central.
It was Malvern’s shining moment, Tyrell said.
“That was one of the best games the girls have played all year,” she said. “They played their hearts out.”
But their quest was halted. With the game tied at fives heading into the final two minutes of the game, a penalty was called against the Black Knights. That moment allowed Barrie Central to score three on a penalty kick.
“If there was going to be a year that we were going to take it all, it would be this year,” Tyrell said. “It was emotional for us because we knew it would take us out of medal contention.”
Pitre, who Tyrell said was instrumental with Underwood in getting the girls so far, admitted she was disheartened with the 8-5 final against Barrie but there was a sense of accomplishment in her voice.
“I think it was an amazing season to go out on because we did really well, we had a great team, we did well at OFSAA,” she said. “It was just nice to have a last year where everything came together, worked really hard and we had so much success on and off the field.”
Along with Pitre and Underwood, Tyrell praised the efforts of Bundy, Caitlin Harvey, Candice Leung, Abi Moody, Margaux Daly, Beth Safarian as well as Porter sisters Jesse and Jamie. Outside of Leung and Jesse Porter the rest are graduating.
Pitre put all the honours on her two coaches who have put in time and energy.
“They took us all in, taught us how to play the game and brought in new players,” she said. “Our success is based off their dedication to the team.”
– Photo courtesy Lauren Weber