UBC Thunderbirds Win Canada West Title Over Calgary Dinos: Shoshanah Seumanutafa Named Player of the Year; Dean Murten Coach of the Year
from UBC media
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Playing in their first Canada West final since 2006, the UBC Thunderbirds scored 21 unanswered second-half points en route to claiming the program's first Canada West title with a 26-12 win over the defending champion Calgary Dinos.
Both teams had already qualified for the U SPORTS Women's Rugby Championship hosted in Ottawa in two weeks' time following semifinal wins on Friday but the Thunderbirds will go in as the Canada West champion and receive a higher seed.
UBC halted the Dinos' quest for a fourth straight Canada West title.
"The first half we were making lots and lots of errors and couldn't get our game going," said UBC head coach Dean Murten. "Second half we just needed to calm down a bit and relax, it is the first time this group has played in the Canada West finals."
"Once we got over the nerves, we relaxed and started moving the ball and played some outstanding rugby."
"This is huge for the program, all our supporters and donors have got behind us and the players have worked really hard to get to where we are, it really means we are going in the right direction," Murten said.
Nine minutes into the game, 2018 Canada West MVP Kaselle Menin rumbled in for the first score and with former T-Bird Catherine Ohler's convert the Dinos grabbed an early seven-point lead.
With UBC pushing into Calgary territory, Shoshanah Seumanutafa deftly kicked the ball forward into space with Emma Feldinger diving on the ball for UBC's first try in the 24th minute, but with a missed convert, the T-Birds trailed 7-5.
Off a Thunderbirds penalty for offside just five yards from the touch area, the Dinos set up the offence and Mariam Ibrahim answer right back for the Dinos only six minutes later with an unconverted try to restore Calgary's seven-point lead.
As expected, UBC wouldn't go away quietly. A long build up with multiple phases put the T-Birds in prime scoring area in the final minutes of the opening half but a steal in a tackle turned the ball over to the Dinos and Calgary was able to kick the ball to relieve the pressure and a 12-5 lead at the half.
An early second-half penalty on the Dinos put the Thunderbirds on the offensive and UBC were awarded a penalty try in the 43nd minute to tie the game at 12.
Down a player due to a yellow card to Alyson MacDougall, it was the Calgary Dinos that pressured the full T-Bird side for majority of the 10-minute sin bin period, however UBC's defence held strong.
Following a yellow card issued to UBC's Rori Wood, both sides played with 14 players aside and it was the T-Birds' turn to go on the offensive. Gillian Boag powered through the defence to give the T-Birds their first lead of the game, 19-12 after a Seumanutafa convert.
While the Dinos were up a player following the UBC try, the T-Birds were back on the attack, pushing Calgary inside their own 10-yard line, despite turning the ball over on a penalty, UBC won the ball right back only to get stopped again.
Back to full strength and a scrum deep in the Dinos end, the T-Birds added to their lead in the 63rd minute. Rachel Smith picked up the try and Seumanutafa made the tough kick from the far-left side to give the T-Birds a two-converted try lead.
Sensing that the program's first title was in reach, the Thunderbirds were able to retain ball possession and control the field position for the remainder the half to secure the first title in Thunderbird history.
Following the game, Seumanutafa was named 2019 Canada West Player of the Year, and Dean Murten the 2019 Coach of the Year, capping off a memorable day for UBC at the University of Lethbridge's Community Stadium.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shoshanah Seumanutafa (UBC Thunderbirds)
Seumanutafa was a dominant offensive force in 2019 for the UBC Thunderbirds. The third-year centre led the Canada West in tries (7), converts (11), and points (57) during the regular season.
The Surrey, B.C. product kicked all of UBC's 11 converts, with her 57 points 18 more than the next closest player on the league's scoring list.
Her efforts paced the Thunderbirds' conference-leading offence, which posted a total of 192 points in five contests.
Seumanutafa also makes history as the first UBC player to win the Canada West Player of the Year award. T-Bird legend Cherlyn McKay did win the U SPORTS Player of the Year honour in 1998 the debut year of women's rugby at the national level, but there was no such award for the Canada West that season.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Dean Murten (UBC Thunderbirds)
Dean Murten is the conference's Coach of the Year, after leading the UBC Thunderbirds to the 2019 Canada West title.
After spending four seasons as an assistant with the program, Murten took over the head coaching role at UBC in 2018, and now in just his second season as the full-time head coach has landed UBC its first women's rugby title.
Murten is looking to become just the third Canada West coach to win the national award, and the first since Calgary's Simon Chi last took home the honour for CW in 2016.
Other UBC coaches to earn the league's Coach of the Year recognition include current assistant Maria Gallo (2013) and Steve Tong (2004 and '06).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Julia Omokhuale (Calgary Dinos)
Rookie back row Julia Omokhuale not only cracked the starting roster for the powerhouse Calgary Dinos, she made an immediate impact.
Omokhuale, who was recently been named to Canada's U18 squad which will travel to the US in December, finished second on the team with 15 points.
Along with her point total, Omokhuale also led the Dinos in defence with the second most tackle attempts, finishing the season with an astounding 96 per cent tackle completion rate.
STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE: Zoe Goodwin-Sutton (Victoria Vikes)
Victoria's Zoe Goodwin-Sutton is the Student-Athlete Community Service award winner after spending extensive time volunteering, while also earning an 89 per cent average in software engineering.
Goodwin-Sutton was head coach of the Mount Douglas Secondary girls rugby team this season, leading three practices per week from April to June. She also volunteered as a counsellor at Operation Trackshoes, which is a three-day track meet for people with developmental disabilities.
On campus, Goodwin-Sutton organized the Vikes Blood Drive, where more than 20 student-athletes donated blood last spring, and has also coordinated several other community outreach initiatives for Vikes student-athletes.
Savannah Collison / Lethbridge / 4 / Calgary, AB / Arts
Cassidy Jones / Calgary / 5 / Calgary, AB / Education
Gillian Boag / UBC / 5 / Calgary, AB / Unclassified
Kasselle Menin / Calgary / 5 / Vulcan, AB / Medicine
Courtney Holtkamp / Alberta / 3 / Rimbey, AB / Kin., Sport & Rec.
Alyson MacDougall / Calgary / 3 / Calgary, AB / Education
Renee Gonzales / Victoria / 3 / Victoria, BC / Humanities
Emma Feldinger / UBC / 2 / Alexis Creek, BC / Kinesiology
Berlyn Seselja / Calgary / 3 / Surrey, BC / Kinesiology
Breanna Aikens / UBC / 4 / Briercrest, SK / Science
Shoshanah Seumanutafa / UBC / 3 / Vancouver, BC / Arts
Maddy Aberg / Victoria / 5 / Calgary, AB / Social Sciences
Hailey Driscoll / Lethbridge / 5 / Lethbridge, AB / Arts & Science
Paige Farries / Victoria / 4 / Red Deer, AB / Science
Savannah Dubien / Alberta / 4 / Edmonton, AB / ALES