The Hunting Hills Lightning girls rugby team is about small victories this season.
Coming off a year when they failed to put up a try, they are almost building from the ground up this year.
Despite a 48-5 loss to the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, the bronze medallists from provincials last year, in the season opener on Wednesday at Titans Ruby Club they are still looking at it as a positive result.
“Today was a great moral victory for us, to get points on the board was a big deal for us and to keep them under 60 was also a great moral victory,” said Lightning head coach Justin Pilgrim, noting that the Raiders beat the Lightning 63-0 last year. “Thurber’s a great side, we were playing short for some of the timer, so the score is what the score is. Both teams played really well and our girls are good at what they’re doing and they’re really learning.”
Sarah Stahl had the Lightning’s lone score while Molly Romhor punched it in three times for Lindsay Thurber and Sarah Thomas and Reece Maguire twice each to lead the Raiders.
The Lightning are returning just five players from last year’s squad, but it isn’t so much about what they have coming back as it is the potential of the players coming into the program. In that regard, there is a high ceiling for this team.
“This year our strength is athleticism,” said Pilgrim.
“Last year we had size but not too much for athleticism, so this year is a different game for us, we are going to play a bit more wide. So part of that is we need to be a bit more skilled in order to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
But that also means progress could also be slow as there will be a lot of teaching this year for Pilgrim.
“This was the very first game for 10 of them, so there was a real big learning curve,” said Pilgrim.
“This is the first time they’ve made a tackle in real life, this is the first time they’ve seen what rugby is really about. But we’re going to learn and we’re going to be a stringer team than we were last year,” added Pilgrim
This also means he will be leaning on his three captains — including Blair Biggs Mary Alice Brown who played on Wednesday — to help the process along on the field.
“They are the most experienced players on the team,” said Pilgrim. “But it’s also their tenacity and they command respect from their peers.”
Still, there are expectations this season to be competitive and build towards a strong finish.
“I expect to have a pretty decent season, all things considered,” said Pilgrim. “In high school every few years every one has loads of new players.