Tough start for Titans

For years the Red Deer Titans women’s rugby team dominated the province’s First Division

Red Deer Titan Monica Hehli is tackled by Edmonton Rocker Nadine Halfyard on Saturday. The Rockers squeezed out a 27-26 win.

Rockers 27 Titans 26

For years the Red Deer Titans women’s rugby team dominated the province’s First Division.

In fact they were so dominant they posted a 29-0-1 record while winning the Alberta title in 2006 and 2007.

Last year the team decided they needed more of a challenge and moved up to the Alberta Premier Division. They got just that as they battled just to finish fourth in the seven-team league. This year it’s just as tough as they’re off to a 0-3 start, following a 27-26 loss to the Edmonton Rockers at Titans Park Saturday afternoon.

“A number of the veteran players decided to retire after last year, leaving us without a lot of experience,” said second-year head coach Bill Bowd. “We not totally lacking experience, but we have three veterans in the pack and the majority of our backs are 19 and younger.”

Bowd would also like to see more players out.

“We’re getting 14 to 16 players out and that really hurts, especially at practice,” he said. “But right now a lot of the older players, who are teachers are working and even the younger girls have jobs and it’s tough for them to come out all the time. That hurts their fitness and it shows in the games. At this level you need to be fit and not let down because of a lack of fitness.”

Bowd would like to have as many as 25 players on his roster, and he will add to the practice roster once the high school season is over.

“We’ll put together our U18 program and there are a number of outstanding young players in Central Alberta and they’ll be practicing with the older team.,” he said. “That will help everyone concerned. It gives us more players at practice, plus if allows the younger girls a chance to work out with the more experienced players and build for the future.”

Bowd also coaches the U18 team, that includes nine players who played with the provincial U17 team last season and two off the provincial U19 team.

“Plus we’ll have Hailey Smith of Olds, who is on the Canadian U19 team,” added Bowd.

Veteran flanker Shannon Court, who is one of the premier university players in the country, leads this year’s edition of the Titans.

Court played with the national champion University of Lethbridge and competed for Canada at the world university seven-on-seven championships.

Other veterans, who Bowd looks to lead the team, are scrum half Aly Bowd, centre Anita LaRose, fly half Chalsea Clifford, prop Courtney Armstrong, No. 8 Kayla Ormand and hooker Ciera Ormand. Two of the bright new faces in camp are Lindsay Thurber grad Elsie Kay, who plays flanker, and Jovita Byzitter of Rocky Mountain House, who plays in the second row.

“They both sat out last year, but have stepped in and played well this season,” said Bowd.

The Titans lack of experience showed Saturday as they were unable to maintain a 19-12 second-half lead. In fact they gave up three straight tries to fall behind 27-19 before Court scored on the final play of the game and kicked the convert.

“We’re still making a number of mistakes and at this level you can’t do that,” said Bowd. “I believe that once we get that experience we’ll maintain a consistent level of play and won’t have the letdowns we have now. I believe we gave away 22 points today.”

And the Rockers aren’t one of the premier teams in the league.

They’re a team we should be beating,” said Bowd. “This is a tough league with a lot of university and national team players. The Lep/Tigers and the Irish are the best teams and the Druids are made up of players from the University of Alberta and Lethbridge is mainly a team comprised of players from the U of L. Those teams are tough to compete against, so we can’t be giving away games we should be winning.”

Yet the Titans showed last week they can play with the more experienced teams when they tied Lethbridge.

“We do have talent,” added Bowd.

The Titans don’t return home again until June 27 when they face the Druids.

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