The architect of last year’s provincial championship team has no regrets for making the quantum leap into Alberta premier rugby after the worst defeat in the history of the St. Albert women’s program.
“Never. You know why? We’re not going to get any better by running scores up in second div,” said a cheerful Cory Albrecht after the Calgary Irish embarrassed the home team 116-0 Saturday. “I told them today there are two things that can happen from a game like this. It can defeat you and you can quit or you can learn from it and it can motivate you. Without a doubt everyone on this team said, ‘Hell no, we’re not quitting. We’re going on.’”
The shocking loss follows the season-opening 67-13 rout by the Druids of Strathcona on St. Albert soil. The 2009 premier finalists wreaked havoc with 11 tries.
“If we want to keep players and build programs then we ought to play at the top level. Are we going to take some lumps for that? Yeah, absolutely we will but we’re not going to get better unless we stay there,” Albrecht said.
The defending Alberta Rugby Union second division champions kicked off their Edmonton Rugby Union fixtures with a sloppy 55-7 effort against the Lep/Tigers last Wednesday in St. Albert.
“There are some growing pains for sure but at the end of the year it’s definitely going to be better in both divisions,” Albrecht said. “You have to stick with it and attract some players and build our young players. When our high school season is done we’ve got Sabrina [Kelly from Paul Kane] and Janna [Slevinsky from Bellerose]. If they recover from their injuries, they will be ready to go and that will help us out.”
He was surprisingly upbeat despite the monumental margins of defeat, especially after Saturday’s debacle when the solar-powered scoreboard had to reset its double-digit counter after the converted try in the 64th minute surpassed the 100 mark.
“Do we want to be more competitive? Absolutely, but you can’t get discouraged. All you can do is just learn from it and go forward,” said Albrecht, who took over the women’s program after a winless 2006 premier season and coached the second division St. Albert Blues to a 13-1 record last year.
But losing by 116 points?
“I’m surprised at that. I thought we would be a little more competitive,” Albrecht said. “We’re still getting things sorted out. We had some girls missing today.
“I told them we need to get back to where we were last year, where people are pushing you for your spots and we’ve got 30-plus girls at practice and if you’re not there you’re not playing. We had a couple of girls today that had to play and hadn’t been at practice all week, like [hooker Zara] Dowie, who just got back from Ireland.
“Am I worried? No. It will come. It’s going to get better every week.”
It took the Irish only 15 seconds to score the first of 11 tries in the opening 40 minutes and a whopping 20 tries overall to go with eight conversions. The reigning provincial champions overwhelmed the defensively challenged St. Albert side for 31 points before the 13th minute mark and racked up 63 by halftime.
“Athletically we’re OK. Amanda Lalonde and Marlene [Nedved], plus Alicia [Sliwkanich] and Stacie [Becker] up front, they can all play premier for any team. It’s just mentally; we’ve got to get everyone thinking faster,” Albrecht said.
“I refer to it as the mental speed. It’s just how fast they process things and think. It’s second nature for a team like the Irish and their players and players that played for Canada. When something happens they know immediately what to do and our girls still take that time to think what do I do, and by that time the Irish had already done it. Getting up to speed mentally is the biggest challenge.”
The premier league is made up of six teams. The Irish are the only premier side in Calgary and are loaded with national team talent from across southern Alberta.
“Lethbridge dropped out so they’ve got the best Lethbridge players,” Albrecht said.
The Southern Alberta Selects are basically the best of the rest from Calgary and area but have yet to step on the pitch.
“If the Calgary Selects never played a game I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Tonight at 7 p.m. the second 15 play Crude/West (1-0) at Leduc. On tap for the first 15 are the Lep/Tigers (1-0-1) May 29 at noon at Ellerslie Rugby Park. The Lep/Tigers beat the Druids 10-8 and rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie the Irish 17-17.