UBC Top Coaches Poll as 2023 Fall Season Ready to Kick Off
[ed. CanWest kicks off in BC on September 9th, looking forward to a great day at UVic’s Wallace Field. The Tide v Tsunami U20 boys at 11am, the women’s UVic v UBC at 1pm and the Vikes v Pride men’s game at 3pm.]
Coming off a third-straight conference championship, it’s no surprise the UBC Thunderbirds have once again been named favourites this season.
The T-Birds, who claimed their third straight CW trophy with a 24-12 win over the Victoria Vikes in last year’s final, have topped the 2023 pre-season coaches poll with four first-place votes.
UBC’s run of three straight titles has matched recent three-peats by Calgary (2016-18), Alberta (2012-14) and Lethbridge (2009-11).
Adding another championship would solidify the T-Birds’ status as a dynasty, and would mark the first four-peat since Alberta won seven consecutive crowns from 1999-2005.
Standing in their way, however, will be a determined Vikes side and a trio of scrappy foes from the prairies.
After falling just short in last year’s conference final, Victoria finished second in this year’s poll and will be hungry to topple their west coast rivals. The team is seeking its first CW title since 2015 and will look to build on last year’s 3-1-1 record.
Vikes head coach Brittany Waters says her experienced team will rely on speed, fitness and their ability to play a fast style of game.
Out east, the three Alberta based teams will be keen to bring the CW Women’s Rugby Trophy back to the prairies. Calgary finished third in the poll, followed by Lethbridge and Alberta.
Dinos head coach Simon Chi says his team is ready to contend with a strong core of returners, plus an exciting group of recruits he believes are capable of contributing right away.
The Dinos get their first taste of action this Friday with a Battle of Alberta clash against the Pandas in Edmonton.
West coast foes UBC and Victoria open their campaigns on Sept. 9 in a CW championship rematch. The Pronghorns also open their season that day, visiting Calgary.
Regular season action rolls on through Oct. 14 before the spotlight turns to southern Alberta for the Canada West playoffs, hosted by the University of Lethbridge. Semi-final action takes place Oct. 19, with bronze and gold medal games following on Oct. 22.
RUGBY 15s ON CANADA WEST TV
Select rugby 15s games will be available live and on demand this season on the new look Canada West TV – the official streaming home of the conference.
2023 CW RUGBY 15s PRESEASON COACHES POLL
Team – Points (First-place votes)
UBC Thunderbirds – 16 (4)
Victoria Vikes – 13 (1)
Calgary Dinos – 9
Lethbridge Pronghorns – 8
Alberta Pandas – 4
1. UBC Thunderbirds
From the coach: “I feel that we have a great balance of speed and power within the team, and I also feel that we have a good balance of senior student-athletes and new student-athletes.” – Dean Murten
Key Performer: Savannah Bauder
The 2021 Canada West Player of the Year led the conference in most major statistical categories for the second year in a row in 2022. Bauder’s nine tries, 22 converts and 89 points all matched or beat her totals from the year before. The fly half has helped UBC win Canada West gold in each of her three seasons as a Thunderbird, scoring three tries and two converts to lead the team to a 24-12 win over Victoria in last year’s final.
2. Victoria Vikes
From the coach: “We are coming into this season with an overall experienced roster and able to build off of our previous years’ success and learnings. Keys to our success this year will be our speed, fitness, organization, and ability to play a fast paced game.” – Brittany Waters
Key Performer: Carissa Norsten
The 2022 Canada West & U SPORTS Rookie of the Year Carissa Norsten returns to the Vikes’ lineup for the 2023 season. Coming off a year full of young members of the Vikes’ squad, Norsten will help solidify a more experienced UVic team on the field in search of the program’s next Canada West title.
3. Calgary Dinos
From the coach: “The Dinos are looking to rebound from an uncharacteristically volatile season. With a strong core of returning senior athletes, the Dinos have added an exciting group of recruits from across Western Canada that are capable of contributing right away. The key will be to put together consistent performances in a very competitive CanWest Conference.” – Simon Chi
Key Performer: Ashlynn Smith
Ashlynn Smith is one of the key returners for the Dinos this season. The fourth-year Lock spent part of her summer training with Team Canada, as she was one of four U SPORTS players to earn an invite to the pre-tournament camp of 40 players the PAC4 Series. She will be an important player for Calgary this season.
4. Lethbridge Pronghorns
Key Performer: Jada Holtkamp
Jada Holtkamp is a catalyst in attack for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. Holtkamp is a stalwart on defense and a talented leader on the team. Holtkamp’s leadership is driven by consistency, athleticism and a high rugby IQ.
5. Alberta Golden Bears
From the coach: “The key to Pandas Rugby success this season will be “experience,” having seven fifth year players in their starting lineup” – Matthew Parrish
Key Performer: Shelby Pierce
The Pandas only conference all-star in each of the last two 15’s seasons, expectations are high for fourth-year Shelby Pierce. The fourth-year Sturgeon County native led the Pandas with two trys last fall, before adding five more in 7’s play in the winter. Arguably the most talented and experienced Pandas team in a decade, Pierce will be the anchor for a team with lofty goals in 2023.