By John DeCoste
The Acadia women's rugby team may have lost all three of its games at the CIS nationals in Antigonish, but no one could accuse the Axewomen of not making the best of the opportunity of competing at the national level.
In their first-ever appearance at the CIS tournament, the Axewomen drew the Guelph Gryphons, the defending CIS champions, as their first-round opponent Nov. 1, and ended up on the short end of a 45-7 score.
The defending champs opened the scoring, and at halftime, led 21-7. Conference all-star Allison Jordan had Acadia's lone try on a penalty, and Emilie Chaisson was successful on the conversion.
Britt Benn, the CIS Player of the Year, had three tries to lead Guelph offensively. Benn and Jordan were named Players of the Game for their respective teams.
Acadia's second game Friday morning was against the Alberta Golden Bears, and this time, it was the Axewomen who opened the scoring on a try by Jordan, her second of the tournament. Nicole Kelly added the conversion for a 7-0 Acadia lead.
The Axewomen clung to a 7-5 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, but Alberta responded with a late try for a 10-7 halftime lead. After the intermission, Alberta scored first to take a 17-7 lead, then Chaisson responded for Acadia to narrow the gap to 17-12. Kelly's conversion pulled the Axewomen to within three.
After Alberta added three points on a penalty kick, AUS Rookie of the Year Maddie MacKenzie went over for an Acadia try to pull the Axewomen to within one at 20-19. However, Kelly's conversion try, which would have given Acadia the lead, was unsuccessful.
Despite an exciting 80-yard run by MacKenzie, that was as close as Acadia would get. Alberta, meanwhile, responded with eight unanswered points for a 28-19 final score.
MacKenzie was named Acadia's player of the game. Speaking afterward, she suggested that despite the final score, Acadia was happy with their performance.
"Yesterday we put up a good fight against Guelph, but today, the tight score really shows that we can put up points against the top teams in the country," MacKenzie said.
She felt Acadia "really did work as a team. We all played together, and we played great."
Acadia advanced to play Queen’s in the fifth-place game Sunday. In a back-and-forth contest, the Golden Gaels pulled away in the second half to score a 36-22 win.
MacKenzie, Jordan and Jane Foster had tries for the Axewomen. Chaisson and Kelly had two-point conversions, and Kelly scored on a penalty kick.
Despite the 0-3 finish, head coach Matt Durant was “really proud” of how Acadia played. “A lot of coaches have congratulated us this weekend,” he said. “The AUS is such a strong conference for women’s rugby. We’ve known that here for a long time. Maybe now the rest of the country is starting to take notice.”
Host St. F.X. blanked Guelph 37-0 in the final, winning its third CIS championship in six years and avenging a loss to the Gryphons in last year’s final.