The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Sask. wins silver at home: All female line-up makes wheelchair rugby history

By in Sports & Health
Cory Harrower
Cory Harrower’s MVP award at the 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Nationals was not enough to stop her tears after a disappointing loss in the gold medal final.

Harrower’s Saskatchewan squad fell 51-33 to the Ontario Lightning in the tournament’s division two final on May 15 in Saskatoon. Her game high 23 scores could not push her team ahead as Ontario’s deep roster proved too much for Saskatchewan.

Although Ontario’s pressure and double — sometimes triple — coverage of Harrower did not limit her ability to score most of her team’s points, it caused Saskatchewan to frequently turn the ball over. This helped Ontario pull away in the second quarter as they saw balanced scoring from Patrice Dagenais, Jonathan Kim, Reid Mulligan and Joe Boudreau.

“They’re a good team with very balanced lines. We just had a tough time with them,” said Harrower. “It was a good game and we’ll get them next time.”

A second Ontario team took the division one gold as the Ontario Thunder defeated the British Columbia division one squad 58-57 in overtime.

Wheelchair rugby — the sport formerly known as murderball — is a full-contact sport for male and female athletes who have mobility-related disabilities in at least three limbs. The object of the game is to cross the ball over the opposing team’s goal line with two wheels while in possession of the ball.

Each squad has four players on the floor at one time. Every player on the floor is ranked according to the severity of their disability — ranging from the more severely disabled 1.0 to the lesser disabled 3.5. No team can have more than 8 points on the floor at one time.

For example, Harrower — who has cerebral palsy — is classified as a 3.0 athlete. When she is on the floor, the sum of the remaining Saskatchewan players cannot surpass 5.0 — so one option would be to play two 2.0 players and one 1.0 player.

The tournament is organized into two divisions because it allows more athletes the opportunity to play. The team which finishes first in division two is given the opportunity to compete in division one the following year.

It was the second straight year that Saskatchewan failed to take home the division two gold — last year they lost to Manitoba by one point in the final.

Nevertheless, the tournament was a huge success for the Saskatchewan wheelchair rugby community as the team made history by playing the sport’s first all-female line.

In a round-robin game against the British Columbia division two team during the tournament’s opening day May 13, Saskatchewan’s four female athletes, Harrower, Miranda Biletski, Kristen McBride and University of Saskatchewan student Jessie Staples, all saw the floor at the same time.

“I thought we rocked it,” said Biletski. “[The all-female lineup] is like our secret weapon now.”

The line outscored its opponents 12-8 during the game.

“The reason Canada has more women on its national team than any other country is because we have strong female athletes out there inspiring the next generation to get involved,” said Team Canada head coach Kevin Orr.

Saskatchewan has four female athletes, more than any other team in the world.

image: Kevin Bogetti-Smith

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