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Ucluelet Secondary ultimate team heads to Provincials after hosting Islands

Students from Tofino - Ucluelet region en route to Kamloops after hosting Island Championships
Ucluelet Secondary School’s ultimate team hosted the Vancouver Island Championships at Tugwell Fields where they placed second and are now heading to the provincial tournament in Kamloops. (Ucluelet Secondary School photo)

Tugwell Fields was full of spirited competitiveness and community pride as Ucluelet Secondary School hosted the Vancouver Island Ultimate Championships.

Three teams went head to head in the tournament on May 6 with Ucluelet Secondary joined by Victoria’s Glenlyon Norfolk and Cedar Secondary.

The hometown team scored a lopsided victory against Cedar in their first game, but fell behind to Glenlyon early in their second match and was unable to claw back despite a valiant effort in the second half.

“We fought back,” team coach Rory Henderson told the Westerly News, noting USS was down 7-2 at half time, but battled back to get within one point before falling 11-9. “It was a really fun comeback, but we couldn’t quite get there.”

He said he and assistant coaches Mike Rhodes and Mike Chapman were proud of the team’s performance.

“They played really well and we’re super proud. They kept their heads up even though they didn’t get the win. I know they really wanted it and got as close as they could,” he said, adding the team earned the tournament’s Spirit Champion award.

“Spirit of the game is a really important thing and there’s usually a team that is recognized as playing with the best spirit, the best sportsmanship, playing the game fair and having fun,” he said, adding this was the second time this season that the team has won an event’s Spirit Award. “I love it. More important than winning the tournament and winning the games is showing you can play at a high level while still having fun and still respecting the other team…I’m just really proud of them and it’s nice to see the sport growing and all the enthusiasm and support that we got from the community as well.”

Olivia Rhodes took the tournament’s Girls MVP.

Henderson said the West Coast had never hosted an Island championship before and that with the last two Island tournaments being held in Victoria, there was an appetite within the ultimate community for a new location and Ucluelet jumped at the chance.

“I think it’s exciting for students to host games here because we so often are travelling to other schools to play, so I think it’s great for our students to play in front of their peers and in front of their parents and fans. It was pretty exciting to have the whole school there watching us play,” he said. “We’ve got a strong team this year, so it’s nice to be able to show off all the work that we’ve put in.”

USS team-member Ruby Forde told the Westerly the team played well and kept their heads high despite missing out on the first place crown.

“We had a really great first game. Our second game, I think we got a little bit startled at the start. We kind of fell behind a bit with our scores and then we got it together and came back up and it was basically a one-point lead by the end. We kept our heads up, the spirit was great and we had a really good time otherwise placing second,” she said.

Forde, Grade 12, is playing in her first season of Ultimate and the grade 12 student said she’s been having a blast.

“One of my friends asked me to join because they needed more girls, so I came and honestly it’s one of my favourite sports now. I love it so much. The spirit is really fun and I feel like I’ve had so much fun playing on the field with everyone,” Forde said.

“I think we’ve definitely gotten better as a team for sure. For me, personally, I’ve definitely gotten better. I came into it knowing not a whole lot and now I feel pretty confident. I’m getting better every practice and every day, but I think that as a team we’ve definitely gotten so much better and I’m really excited to go to provincials this year and see how we’re going to do.”

She added coach Henderson has been a huge part of the team’s positive vibes.

“Thank you Rory Henderson, you are the best coach ever. We love you. The team loves you. You really make some of our days better with ultimate,” she said.

Grade 12 USS team-member Kayla Blake said she was thrilled to feel the support of the home crowd during the island championship.

“We did really well in our first game and then our second game we fell behind a bit but we really picked it up and closed the gap and I think we made a really good comeback,” she said.

Blake is also in her first year of the sport and she said she’s enjoyed the connections she made.

“It’s been really fun to kind of get into a new community. I’ve met a couple people I hadn’t really talked to before, so I’ve made more friends and more community,” she said. “I like to do sports a lot and I like to exercise so this gives me an excuse to come to school and get more exercise.”

The team is now heading to Kamloops for the provincial tournament from May 24-25.

The team will play six games and hopes to improve on its 12th place finish at last year’s provincials.

“This is the strongest team we’ve had. We’re a really good team this year. They play really well together as a team, it’s balanced and I think they’re a great team the way they work together, so we’re hoping for our best finish at provincials,” Coach Henderson said.

The team will send 18 athletes to the provincial tournament.

Henderson has been coaching the team for three years and said he has not been surprised with how quickly the sport has spread across the school.

“There’s lots of growth. This is the biggest team we’ve had in terms of numbers,” he said, adding practices consistently see participation from about 25 students.

“I’m not surprised. It’s one of those sports that a lot of people don’t know much about, but once they play it, they realize how fun it is, especially with all of the spirit components.”

He added that both the Tofino Co-op and Ucluelet Co-op donated food for a fundraising barbecue that helped cover the costs of sending the team to Kamloops for the provincials.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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