By: Jessica Rose
The players and coaches of the Thunder women’s rugby team have more than a few reasons to celebrate the hard work that went into this season.
The team managed to shut out all of their opponents in their regular season and score a few titles along the way.
Danika McDermott, 26, was named an All-Star and awarded player of the year in the women’s division.
Although it was McDermott’s first season as part of the Thunder rugby team, she had 13 years of rugby experience contributing to her strength as a prop for the team.
“It’s really good to play with fresh and very talented girls,” she said. “I enjoyed playing with all of them and they’re a great group of people and players.”
Coach Jennifer Boyd was awarded East Division and overall coach of the year as a result of her commitment to the team.
“Jennifer Boyd is a fantastic coach. She is one of the most knowledgeable rugby players and coaches in Ontario and in Canada,” said McDermott. “She has years of experience and she is very passionate and very dedicated to the sport of rugby and Algonquin’s rugby team.
“She puts in a lot of time and energy to make players shine and bring the players to their full potential.”
Even though the team faced little resistance compared to last year in terms of competition, Maya Williams, 18, agrees that her coach always remained focused on helping every player improve.
“Even in games when we would beat the other team like 50-0, she would still give us pointers on how to improve,” said Williams.
The emphasis on independent player development proved to be an effective method to strengthen the team’s performance together as a whole unit.
“Hard work always pays off, these girls are excellent ambassadors of this fact,” said Boyd. “Winning coach of the year is an honour, but it would not be possible without players like Courtney [Mastine], Dani and Maya.”
A fresh face on the field, Williams was awarded rookie of the year in the east and was the East Division scoring champion.
“It was kind of intimidating playing with older girls because I’m one of the younger players on the team and I’m not very knowledgeable about the sport,” said Williams. “But it was different and exciting.”
Returning to the Thunder for her second season, Mastine, 20, was enthusiastic about the overall improvement of the team as a whole and was named an All-Star this season.
“We were a much better team than we were last year so that was always exciting,” said Mastine. “I knew we could probably beat Humber this year and we did. That was probably the highlight of the season.”
The gold medal game against Humber College was originally a victory for Algonquin, but after the decision on who the winner waswent back and forth a couple of times (due to appeals), the gold was awarded to both teams.
“The gold medal game was definitely the hardest game I think we’ve played all season, both physically and mentally,” said McDermott. “Regardless of the OCAA outcome, we won on that day on the field.”