Women’s rugby, basketball nationals coming to UVic

Two promising and youthful University of Victoria Vikes teams will get a chance to win CIS national titles at home next season.

As hosts of the 2016 CIS women’s rugby championship next November and the 2017 CIS women’s basketball championship that March, the Vikes teams will gain automatic berths.

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Both bid decisions were announced by the CIS over the weekend.

“We have a very good, young and talented group, so this is huge for us,” said Vikes women’s basketball head coach Dani Sinclair.

The Vikes don’t graduate anybody this season. Current-fourth year UVic stalwarts Jenna Bugiardini, Nicole Karstein, Jenna Krug and Ashley McGinnis will graduate In 2016-17 by playing in the national championship on their home CARSA gym.

“We can have a bit of a long-term approach,” said Sinclair.

Not that she is treating this season as a build-up to the main event.

“We’re still going for it all this season,” said Sinclair, whose Vikes opened the Canada West regular season 1-1 against Trinity Western over the weekend in Langley and open at home Friday and Saturday against Saskatchewan.

“That weight and pressure of coaching at UVic is always there.”

Sinclair, who played as Dani Everitt, captained UVic to its ninth CIS title in 2003 under head coach Brian Cheng. The Vikes earlier had won eight national championships under the legendary coach Kathy Shields, but have not been to the national tournament since 2005.

UVic has not hosted the nationals since 1993 in the old McKinnon Gym.

“It’s time to bring it home again,” said Sinclair.

As assistant coach over the summer with champion Canada at the 2015 FIBA Americas U-16 women’s championship, and assistant coach for Canada at the 2011 Pan Am Games, Sinclair knows the Canadian hoops scene and how important national-level success is in recruiting top-level talent to your program.

The University of Regina will host the CIS women’s hoops nationals in 2018, it was also announced. This season’s national tournament will be hosted by the University of New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, the UVic women’s rugby team has long toiled in the long shadow of Doug Tate’s more vaunted men’s Vikes team that produced several players for Canada at the recent 2015 World Cup.

But the rising women’s Vikes team took major strides under rookie head coach Brittany Waters as it won the Canada West championship this season for the first time in team history to advance to its first CIS tournament appearance in a decade since hosting in 2005. The Vikes finished fifth in the CIS tournament over the weekend in Kingston, Ont., which is the best-ever placing for the program.

“This is just the beginning for this team. We are very young and return seven or eight starters,” said Waters.

Among the youthful returnees are Canadian U-20 player and CIS rookie of the year Gabrielle Senft and sophomore Jess Neilson, a member of the Maple Leafs national development team.

“These [Vikes women’s basketball and rugby] are two programs on the rise and this times well for us,” said UVic athletic director Clint Hamilton.

CIS SOCCER: Bruce Wilson’s Canada West-runner up UVic Vikes have been seeded No. 7 for the men’s soccer CIS championship at York University in Toronto and will meet the Atlantic Conference-champion and No. 2-seed UNB Varsity Reds on Thursday in the quarter-finals . . . The UBC Thunderbirds, who edged UVic 2-1 in overtime in the Canada West final Saturday night, are seeded No. 4 and will meet the Ontario bronze-medallist Toronto Varsity Blues in the quarters.

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