Oak Bay High rugby girls tackle 7s provincials, defeat strong Claremont to finish first

Island teams dominate provincial rugby competition

The Oak Bay High girls sevens team celebrates a provincial win. (Tom Aerts/Twitter)

The Oak Bay High girls sevens team celebrates a provincial win. (Tom Aerts/Twitter)

Incredible coaching, interested athletes and good leadership led Oak Bay High’s fairly inexperienced rugby 7s team to take the provincial high school girls title this spring.

The team won 10-7 over a strong Claremont Secondary team they faced three times through the season.

They got creamed by the strong Saanich team to start the year, said teacher coach Koji Zolbrod. He estimates Oak Bay had a half dozen who had played at some level, augmented by 24 rookies while Claremont fielded several established, and strong, players.

“By Islands, we had closed the gap and lost by four points in the semi-final. So we knew we had improved as a team,” Zolbrod said.

The team, featuring several international students, started training in February with league play getting underway after spring break in April. Zolbrod credits both the young athletes – many balancing several sports over the season – and community coaches Jen Ross of the James Bay club and her son Jake Thiel a vice-captain of the national sevens team.

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“It was nice to have such a strong coaching team. It’s no wonder all the girls managed to get up to speed so quickly and were able to craft a championship team in just a few months really,” Zolbrod.

The team also enjoyed some time with national 15s captain and Oak Bay High alum Sophie de Goede.

Zolbrod also acknowledged Marley Robinson, the team captain who graduates this year.

“She displayed great leadership throughout the year,” Zolbrod said.

The team also benefited from a strong field of teams to battle all season. All five Island teams that attended provincials finished in the top eight, with SMUS taking fifth, Cowichan in sixth and Esquimalt at seventh.

“We definitely got better playing against each other,” Zolbrod said. “We were able to use all those exhibition games to get everyone as much playing experience as possible.”

That all led to the Oak Bay team sweeping the round robin ahead of the 10-7 final win over Claremont at provincials June 3.

“It was a defensive battle. Claremont had the top offensive, well the best rugby player in the competition and we were able to shut her down.”

Stelly’s secondary finished on top of the boys 7s provincial tournament with Belmont Secondary in second and Kelowna third.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

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