Western ringette wins tourney first time out

Mustangs outscore opposition 32-7 through five games

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western women's ringette club

Courtesy of Larry Wilson

DIGGING FOR GOLD HARDER THAN ANNA NICOLE SMITH. The Western ringette team demolished the competition on its way to winning the University Challenge Cup showcase tournament in Niagara Falls this past weekend, defeating the Guelph Gryphons 3-1 in the final game.

In its second season of existence the Western women’s ringette club is enjoying significant success, having won the University Challenge Cup tournament held in Niagara Falls, Ontario this past weekend.

The women were undefeated in the four-day tournament winning five games including a 3-1 championship game victory over the University of Guelph.

“Because this was our first time attending the tournament we really didn’t know what to expect, so we basically just wanted to play the best ringette we could, bond as a team and really have fun taking in the whole experience,” team captain Josée Wilson said.

“It has taken a year and a half to really establish this team and our ultimate goal was to participate in this tournament,” Wilson added.

Women’s university ringette is indeed in its grass roots stages with only six Ontario schools icing teams: Ottawa, York, Guelph, Waterloo and Brock participated in the Niagara tournament, along with Western.

“[Western’s team] was started up last year by a bunch of girls, we got some ice at Thompson [... ] We started out last year with probably about 12 girls [...] now we have almost 30,” assistant coach Lain Findlater said.

“So the word is getting out there that we have a program and this is really going to help us, the fact that we won in our first year in the tournament.”

As this was its first year in the Niagara tournament, Western participated in the Tier II division. After outscoring the opposition 32-7 through five games, the team will move up to Tier I in next year’s event and compete against much stronger competition, particularly schools from Western Canada like the University of Alberta, a team that offers financial scholarships to its players.

Despite almost doubling participation since its inaugural year, the largest obstacle faced by the team so far seems to be attracting players.

“Just getting the word out on campus that we actually have a team [has been the toughest thing],” Findlater said.

“We have some outstanding athletes here, some that are on Team Ontario and some that are looking to make Team Canada,” he added.

“Since the majority of players on these university teams come from club teams, the potential for the sport to grow and reach that high level of play is definitely there,” Mustangs forward Jana Burgess said.

Financially, the barriers to playing are relatively low.

Team members are expected to contribute $200 initially to cover weekly ice time and a portion of the accommodation costs for tournaments.

“We have been lucky enough to have great coaches that help out with the travel costs,” Burgess said.

The Western ringette team’s coaching staff is made up entirely of volunteers, each of whom has a wealth of experience in the sport.

“We now have Campus Rec club status, so that’s really going to help us a lot [with recruitment],” Findlater said.

“We don’t get any funding, but we get a booth and we get information on the website, so that will help make people aware of us.”

Findlater described the time commitment required of the players as manageable, explaining the team typically has ice time twice a week, usually on campus at Thompson Arena.

While university ringette may be a long way from being accepted as an Ontario University Athletics sport, the players and coaches see the potential for it in the future.

“The universities in Alberta have already seen ringette recognized at their schools and now we are working on doing the same,” Burgess said.

“All the players and coaches are definitely interested in seeing ringette become an OUA sanctioned sport,” Wilson added.

“We are all extremely passionate about our sport and we would love for it to be recognized. Hopefully with the University Challenge Cup and the increased publicity throughout the universities we will soon be able to make this a reality.”

The team is always looking for new players, so anyone interested in participating is encouraged contact Lain Findlater at ifindlat@uwo or to go to Thompson Arena on Mondays at 4:30 p.m. during the team’s ice time to meet with the coaches.

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