CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers are a more balanced squad this season, the coaching staff believes, as it heads into the opening weekend of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) rugby season.
The Panthers lost the sister combo of Alysha and Sidney Corrigan, as well as Amy Hickey and a few others, but has a strong core returning and a first-year class ready to contribute.
“This year, we have more of a multi-pronged attack,” head coach John LaBoyne said. “It’s forced us to spread the ball around a little bit more.”
“We have a good mix of forwards and backs that are all playing together, and it just seems to be clicking right now,” added assistant coach James Voye.
He said the players are catching onto the structure the team wants to play. Having many of the team play for Voye this summer with the successful Charlottetown Rugby Football Club (CRFC) has helped the transition.
The Panthers begin AUS play today at 2 p.m. at Acadia. The four-team conference has been dominated by St. FX and Acadia in recent years with UPEI and Saint Mary’s battling for the third and final playoff spot.
The coaching staff isn’t putting any extra importance on today’s contest.
“Every game is important,” LaBoyne said, “but one thing about our squad is they never shy away from a challenge and they’re be up for this one.”
Frances MacWilliam and Tara Campbell will handle the kicking duties for the squad this season.
The team will be without Niki Triantafillou (knee) for today’s game. It will rely on veterans like Campbell, Anneke Dykerman and Maddy Shea this season while Sophie Carragher and Kathleen Sullivan are taking on bigger roles.
Some of the new players this year include Brinten Comeau, a Hammonds Plains, N.S., native who was part of the Nova Scotia Keltics High Performance Academy, Tessa Hood, Colonel Gray High School, Emma Dixon, Montague Regional High School, and Katlyn Berkelaar from Williams Lake, B.C.