Brynna Walker of Souris races up field for a try during the Calgary Dinos’ win over Lethbridge on Saturday. (DAVID MOLL/UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY)
Souris native Ellen McGregor breaks out of a scrum with the ball during a recent Calgary Dinos game. (DAVID MOLL/UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY)
Ellen McGregor feels like all of her hard work is finally paying off.
When the Souris native came to the University of Calgary four years ago, there wasn’t much hype around the Dinos women’s rugby team as it entered its first season. The squad went winless that year and the next before making the playoffs for the first time last season. However, the team’s accomplishment was overshadowed by the school’s football team that went on to win the Hardy Cup.
This year, the Dinos women’s rugby team is off to a perfect 3-0 start atop the Canada West conference standings and are now ranked fifth in the nation, the highest it has ever been. Even though the football team is looking at a fifth straight Canada West title and the women’s hockey team is the defending national champions, the rugby team is finally starting to get some attention around the U of C campus.
"For us to be in the Top 10 at seventh, we’re starting to get more recognition for it," said McGregor, a 5-foot-4 back row player. "Other sports teams are acknowledging us. Staff around the school are saying ‘Rugby, yeah! You guys are doing so good.’ There’s a lot of excitement building around us. It’s definitely building and giving us the confidence to go in and say we do belong to be here. It’s a very exciting time right now."
A large reason for the Dinos’ success this season is the strong crop of talent from Westman. In addition to McGregor, the team features Brynna Walker, Jodie Hicks and Amanda Williams, who are all from Souris. Dauphin’s Katherine Procyshyn and Minnedosa’s Breanne Morgan are also on the squad.
Morgan is the only Westman player who doesn’t start for the Dinos, although she has appeared in two of the team’s three games.
Williams, McGregor and Procyshyn have all scored three tries this season and Walker has scored four. Combined, the Westman players have produced 65 of the team’s 154 points in the regular season, with Walker scoring a pair of tries to lead the Dinos to a big 31-18 triumph on Saturday over the Lethbridge Pronghorns, who slipped in the rankings from third to sixth in the nation on Tuesday.
McGregor loves being part of a talented group that shows Manitoba produces good rugby players, despite what people in other provinces think.
"Manitoba has never done that well at nationals, but for us to come here and we’re making a huge difference on the team, it shows that our program in Manitoba is worthwhile," she said. "People beak Manitoba as saying it’s a weak province, but … four of our five tries (in Saturday’s game) were scored by Manitobans."
While everything is going well for the Dinos right now, McGregor knows their season isn’t over yet. They still have one more regular season game left against the University of Alberta, and a win will secure them first place going into the playoffs, which will be held from Oct. 19-21 in Edmonton.
McGregor would love to be a part of the first Calgary team to reach nationals, and she has a little extra motivation to get there as well.
"If we made it to nationals, that would be gigantic," she said. "It would be a very big deal for our program and it would be great for us Manitoba girls because (Brandon’s) Amanda Thornborough is out at St. FX and they’re hosting (nationals). It would be a reuniting of old ’Toba teammates. It would be very exciting."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 3, 2012