The expectations are high for the Fraser Valley girls rugby team at the Abbotsford 2016 BC Summer Games later this month, and a pair of Mission players should be a big part of it.
Mission Secondary students Kyra Lipke and Kate Baker have joined forces with their Valley rivals in Langley and Abbotsford to put together a local super team to battle the best in the province.
“We normally play against each other but once we’re on the same team it just fits really well,” Lipke said.
“We’ve really bonded,” Baker added. “We have local people from all over together – it’s almost like a dream team. We all just really love rugby.”
Led by Aldergrove Secondary teacher Stuart Crowley, the Fraser Valley team was formed in May, but many of the team members know each other from high school games and from the recent Provincial Regional Championships rugby tournament.
Lipke, who is heading into Grade 12, fell in love with the sport in Grade 7.
“I play basketball and volleyball as well but they’re just not aggressive enough,” she said. “It feels like people don’t put their heart into the sport as much as we do in rugby. You can actually body check people in rugby and it’s okay.”
For Baker, who is going into Grade 11, rugby became a fascination after she saw the joy it brought to her older sister.
“She got me into it,” she said. “She would come home with all these bruises and tell me all about it. It made me want to play.”
The pair said that Crowley has helped develop their game, and the Games experience should be great for their future in the sport.
“He [Crowley] has a different perspective on the game and really gets us prepared mentally as well as physically,” Baker said.
“He puts his heart and soul into coaching and he really cares,” Lipke said. “He makes me want to play better.”
Crowley said the Mission duo is important to the team’s success.
“Kyra is a really good passer and she’s very shifty out there,” he said. “She jukes around a lot and has the ability to get around people one-on-one. For her it’s about creating space for the other people out there. I think she will be able to draw defenders in for us.”
He said Baker’s effort level is perfect for the team.
“She’s a battler and has just a ton of heart,” he said.
Crowley said he expects his team to have a strong tournament.
“I would say we have a ton of talent and skill and I’m really happy with how we’ve progressed so far,” he said. “It’s a matter of us working on the same system and all getting on the same page.”
He said the expectation is to have the club on the podium at the Games.
“Our goal has been to win gold since day one,” he said. “The Fraser Valley has always been a strong rugby region and I think we’re going to be a difficult team to play against. We’re going to be sound defensively and we’re going to have good attacking. I don’t want to sound overconfident but we expect to medal and we want to win gold.”
Rugby occurs at Rotary Stadium and kicks off on July 22. The Games run from July 21 to 24 in Abbotsford and the surrounding areas.
For more on the Games, visit bcgames.org.