Wolfville, NS – The StFX X-Women defeated the Guelph Gryphons 41-24 to win the U SPORTS national championship Sunday evening at Acadia University. The victory marked the sixth national banner in team history for the X-Women, who previously won in 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010 and 2006 - keeping the tradition alive in winning in even-numbered years.
A boisterous and supportive pro-StFX crowd cheering on the blue and white as they competed in their home province. When asked what the sixth championship banner meant in comparison the previous ones, StFX head coach Mike Cavanagh commented, "They are all special, but this one is nice because we didn't seem to be given our due respect heading into the championship so it was nice that the girls proved everyone wrong. It was a nice one, especially to win this one in Nova Scotia in front of our fans."
The first half of the game featured exciting back and forth action as the teams exchanging scoring opportunities and battled hard on both sides of the ball.
The Gryphons opened the game with the ball possession and quickly found their way across the try line as Julia Schell (Uxbridge, ON) touched down in the opening minute of play. Madison Brattan (Guelph, ON) converted to give the Gryphons an early 7-0 lead in the game.
The lead did not last long however, as the X-Women came right back down field and after a lineout in close, veteran fifth year All-Canadian prop and X-Women co-captain Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON) grabbed a quick pass and powered her way across the try line for X's for score of the game. Danielle Franada (Grand Prairie, AB) concerted the try to even the game at 7-7 six minutes into play.
After a StFX penalty deep in their end the Gryphons took advantage and Erika Barton (Greater Napanee, ON) scored their second try of the game. With a conversion by Brattan the OUA champions took a 14-7 lead 17 minutes into the first half.
After continued pressure in the Guelph end by the X-Women pack, they continued to press until All-Canadian No. 8 Olivia DeMerchant (Bedell, NB) touched down in the 24th minute. Franada's second conversion of the afternoon tied the game at 14 in the 24th minute. Franada also had some key tackles for the X-Women in the backfield throughout then opening half.
The forwards continued their strong play throughout the remainder of the second half, resulting in StFX's third try scored by Amelia Hatfield (Halifax, NS) in the 37th minute. Franada's conversion attempt hit the upright as StFX took their first lead of the game at 19-14, also the halftime score.
The X-Women carried their momentum into the second half with their forward movement pressing on offense and fourth year prop Sam Lake (Windsor, NS) scored two minutes in. Franada kicked her third conversion of the day to give X a 26-14 lead.
The Gryphons answered right back however, using the speed of their backs to quickly move down field. Talia Hoffman (Binbrook, ON) handed off to Rebecca Sundell (Malmoe, SWE) who touched down in the 48th minute. The try went unconverted as Guelph trailed 26-19.
StFX expanded their lead in the 55th minute when Lake powered her way across the try line for her second score of the game. Franada's conversion brought the score to 33-19 for the AUS champion X-Women. The second year fullback then booted a penalty kick to increase the StFX lead to 17.
The Gryphons kept fighting and scored an unconverted try in the 71st minute from Brodie Schmidt (Uxbridge, ON) but the X-Women sealed the victory as Lake touched down for her third try of the half in extra time as time finally ran out and StFX took the 41-24 victory.
Fifth year veteran No. 8 DeMerchant was singled out as the championship most valuable player. She joined teammates Alphonso, Hatfield and Franada as tournament all-stars.
Coach Cavanagh was obviously pleased with the performance of his team, noting that after Guelph came out and scored early "We came right back and scored and as soon as they did that I knew we were going to win this game. They were determined, they stuck to the game plan, they tackled well and did everything we asked of them. I am very proud of these girls."
GUE 14-0: 0
StFX 19-0: 0
GUE – Julia Schell try (Madison Brattan convert), 1st minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try (Danielle Franada convert), 6th minute
GUE – Erica Barton try (Madison Brattan convert), 17th minute
StFX – Olivia DeMerchant try (Danielle Franada convert), 24th minute
StFX – Amelia Hatfield try, 37th minute
StFX – Sam Lake try (Danielle Franada convert), 42nd minute
GUE – Rebecca Sundell try, 48th minute
StFX – Sam Lake try (Danielle Franada convert), 55th minute
StFX – Danielle Franada penalty kick, 68th minute
GUE - Brodie Schmidt try, 71st minute
StFX – Sam Lake try, 81st minute
Players of the Game
GUE: Kylie Shaughnessy (Peterborough, ON)
StFX: Amelia Hatfield (Halifax, NS)