WOLFVILLE, N.S. – The Axewomen rugby team will begin their journey to the U SPORTS national women's rugby championship this Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. as they kick off the AUS regular season against UPEI, ranked 10th in the opening U SPORTS Top Ten national rankings.
As host of this year's National Championship from November 1st to 4th in Wolfville, the Axewomen have an automatic berth to the championship tournament, so they can focus on a conference championship that has alluded them since the 2015 season.
With a 4-1 exhibition season record, the Axewomen hope to offer a nationally competitive team after only losing one of four 2017 AUS All-Star, Danielle Wisen, to graduation.
Additions to the 2018 roster include former Axewomen Maddie MacKenzie and Gillian Bergsma. Both return for their fifth and final season after taking a year off from school following their 2017 graduation.
MacKenzie was a two-time AUS All-Star, named the 2012 AUS Rookie of the Year and was an integral part of the team's 2015 championship win. Bergsma was an AUS All-Star in 2016. Both are former team MVPs and will bring great skill and depth to the roster.
Also included in this year's line up are four Axewomen who were involved in the U20 National Team Canada program this past summer. Annie Kennedy, Harley Tucker, Emilie Merilainen, and Monique Coffey will bring valuable international experience to this year's squad.
Former UPEI Panther, Alysha Corrigan, will join the Axewomen this season. An All-Canadian, Corrigan transferred schools this past summer to pursue academic and rugby interests at Acadia after graduating from UPEI. She will add talent and experience to the backline.
First-year Axewoman Valerie Wideski, from Victoria, B.C., is the top signing recruit in the off-season. Wideski spent this past summer training with the U20 Team Canada program.
"Valerie will have an immediate impact on the team. Her high rugby IQ and outstanding athleticism will make our forward pack much stronger," noted head coach Matt Durant.
Durant noted the team's strength and weaknesses this season when asked.
"We are very deep and talented from 9 through 15, however, we must be strong defensively at the breakdown and we must be low and relentless tackling in the open field if we are going to succeed this season."
Durant is hopeful that his team can build on the last several seasons as finalists in the last two AUS championship and participants of the last five national championships.
"Our young group is now very mature and we hope to carry the experience we have gleaned at the last 2 or 3 National Championships into hosting in 2018."
The Axewomen open the AUS regular season at home this Saturday afternoon against UPEI at 2:00 p.m. and all youth 17 years and younger are admitted for free on Minor Rugby Day.