It was a loss on the score sheet, but for the Bellerose Bulldogs girls’ rugby team it felt like a win.
The Bulldogs dropped their final match of the regular season 20-7 to the Sturgeon Spirits, but Bellerose captain Caitlin Pon, 17, was impressed with her team’s performance.
“We played awesome the whole game, we played with so much heart,” said Pon. “We went in there knowing that they shutout a lot of teams, they beat a lot of teams, and we just showed to ourselves mostly that we can make it.”
The Spirits scored the first try to pull ahead for an early lead in the first quarter, but failed to make the conversion kick for the extra two points. Bellerose answered a few minutes later when Bulldog Janna Slevinsky scored her ninth try of the season to tie up the game.
“You just have to be in the right place at the right time, you hit your gaps and you take what you can,” said Slevinsky, a Grade 11 student at Bellerose.
A successful conversion kick allowed the Bulldogs a brief lead of two points, making them the only team to score more than five points against the Spirits all season.
A few minutes later, Sturgeon answered with another try and secured a 10-7 lead.
Both teams battled back and forth in the middle of the field for much of the remainder of the game, but Sturgeon managed to score twice more before the game ended 20-7 in favour of the Spirit.
Even though it was a win, Sturgeon coach Ian Elm wasn’t impressed with his team’s performance.
“This game was a good game for us to play. Every season, usually, you have one bad game and I’m glad it was this one,” said Elm. “I think that this is going to be a good wake-up call for the girls, a good kick in the pants to get them a little bit mentally prepared for each game.”
Elm said his team lacked the tenacity it needed to get the ball and hold onto it, adding the team is going to have to work on its mental preparations if they want to take home this year’s championship.
“I’m going to say it’s ours if we want it, but we’re going to have to work for it as well,” Elm said. “It’s going to be the team that shows up for the games [that gets the championship].”
As for Bellerose team captain Pon, the game was the last regular season contest the Grade 12 student will ever play for Bellerose. She said her three-year career with the Bulldogs has been great and although she’s looking forward to the playoffs, her last regular season game was bittersweet.
“[I want] to make every game count, get to the finals. I want to play with these girls all the way there,” Pon said, shedding a few tears with teammate Slevinsky. “It’s been really great, honestly, I don’t want this to end.”
The quarter-finals in varsity women’s rugby get under way May 26. The first-place Sturgeon Spirits and second-place Bev Facey Falcons secured byes to the semifinals.
Bellerose (3-2), with its third-place finish, will face the Salisbury Sabres (0-5) in the quarter-finals while the Paul Kane Blues (2-3) will take on the Archbishop Jordan Scots (1-4). Locations have not yet been announced, but game start-times will be 4:45 p.m.