When it became too hard to avoid hearing the whistle from referees in basketball, Abbotsford’s Sophia Peters didn’t soften her style – she simply made the transition to rugby.
The Grade 12 Abbotsford Senior Secondary School student said the move to rugby allowed her to use her size and skills in a sport that is more open to physicality.
“I was just a little too aggressive for basketball,” she said, chuckling. “I’d always get fouled out so I just figured rugby is the way to go.”
Peters transferred her tenacity into a big opportunity with the Queen’s University women’s rugby team. She recently announced that she is set to join the Kingston, Ont.-based school in the fall.
W 🏉 Sophia Peters is #GAELSCOMMITTED
Sophia was Abbotsford Rugby Club's 2017 Rookie of the Year and 2018's MVP.
“I choose Queen's because I will be challenged on and off the pitch. I look forward to being a Gael!”#LeadTheWay #TricolourTeammateTuesday pic.twitter.com/ovPLubuXZq
— Queen's Gaels (@queensgaels) December 8, 2020
But the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make it easy for Peters or any other local high schooler to attract athletic attention.
She said she sent information packages, including a video edited by her friend, to almost every school with a women’s rugby program in Canada, and also several in Australia. Peters received a number of replies from schools, but that said she was thrilled to get interest from Queen’s.
“My ultimate goal was to go out to Ontario because I do want to move away,” she said. “Queen’s has always been my number one so it was really awesome when I got the call from them. It was important for me to be on a team that was so developed and had such amazing coaches. When I started talking to them they actually made me feel really appreciated and valued.”
Peters was accepted into the school’s kinesiology program, but eventually wants to focus her studies towards a nursing degree.
Ontario is a long way from her native Haiti, a place she still has a connection to today. Peters and her two siblings were adopted by a Canadian couple when she was two and half years. The family spent some time in both countries for a number of years before settling in Abbotsford in 2016. She and the family regularly visit her birthplace and birth mother.
“The people in Haiti are so amazing,” she said. “They don’t have very much but are always so generous. It’s a really beautiful place and just spending time there has taught me to be thankful and appreciative foe what we have here.”
Rugby got on Peters’ radar when she was in Grade 8 at Clayburn Middle School. She moved on to play at both Robert Bateman Secondary School, Abby Senior and the club rugby with the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club. She said her coaches at Abby, Miss Doan and Mr. Wimmer, helped develop her skills especially in her Grade 11 year. She also earned the ARFC’s rookie of the year award in 2017 and its most valuable player in 2018.
Her coaches at Queen’s have told her she is expected to challenge for a starting role on the wing this fall, and Peters said she is excited for the opportunity.
The Queen’s Gaels were one of the top teams in Ontario University Athletics in 2019, finishing with a record of 8-1 and advancing all the way to the U Sports final. They lost 22-14 to Laval in the 2019 national final.
Queen’s is scheduled to host the U Sports women’s rugby national finals for 2021, and the season is expected to start in September.
For more on the team, visit gogaelsgo.com/sports/rbyw.