A quartet of Fraser Valley female rugby talent excelled on a massive stage on Saturday.
Abbotsford’s Tausani Levale, Shalaya Valenzuela and Hunter Czeppel, as well as Mission’s Viviana Johnson, were all a big part in the Team BC U18s taking home top spot at the Elite Rugby 7s girls final in front of tens of thousands at BC Place.
B.C. defeated the Ontario Junior Blues 12-5 to win the gold medal.
During the first two days of competition at Connaught Park and Burnaby Lake, BC Elite 7s Girls went a perfect 4-0, proving to be unstoppable.
It’s the team’s second National U18 7s Championship win. They finished the multi-day championship with 191 points for and just five against.
Levale, the captain of the team, said it was a memorable experience.
“Playing in the stadium was one of the most surreal moments I have ever experienced in my rugby career,” she stated.
“The hour leading up to the game is the biggest test of one’s mental toughness and focus. I am so glad I had an amazing team with girls that I’ve played alongside for years to rely on.”
Although it’s her last year eligible to compete at the U18 level, the Grade 12 Abbotsford Senior Secondary student said she hopes event continues to grow.
“The atmosphere was unreal and it was the most rewarding and relieving feeling ever,” she said. “I am so honoured that I was able to experience this two years in a row with some of my best friends.
“It means so much to my family and me – it puts purpose to all our hard work over the years. I hope this tradition continues for years to come and I hope it will inspire other young athletes as it has me.”
Team BC head coach Darcy Patterson said all four local girls, who all play at the club level with the Abbotsford Rugby Club, were important parts of the team. She added that Valenzuela is set to be presented with an aboriginal sport award for her strong efforts in rugby.
“It is amazing to have these opportunities for young female athletes,” Patterson said. “Having Canada 7s and Rugby Canada working in partnership to have the final showcased in the stadium is incredible.
“These athletes showed a lot of heart, great rugby skills and overall did so well under the pressure of playing in front of over 30,000 people. Ontario fought until the end and really pushed the girls to earn the championship. The future is bright for rugby in Canada.”
The team consisted of: Abbotsford players Levale, Valenzuela and Czeppel; Mission’s Johnson: Tanika Bonneville, Shoshanna Seumanutafa and Berlyn Seselja from South Surrey; Shaye Tudor from Victoria; Coquitlam’s Margaret Banks; Denise Roy from Cowichan; Emma Feldinger from Williams Lake; Kally King from Kamloops; and Richmond’s Valerie Wideski.
This week, players from last year’s Elite Girls 7s program will be competing in the National University 7s Rugby Championships, demonstrating that this program is an integral component of the pathway to representing Canada.
For more on the team, visit bcrugby.com.