The Airdrie Senior Girls Rugby Team of Bert Church High School is celebrating not only a monumental growth in the team's ranks and popularity, but they have also brought home the zone banner. 

Head Coach of the team, Ayanna Bennett, said that for a program in only its second year, the progress has been incredible.

"The program was started last year, mostly a Grade nine team; the girls initiated the program start by recruiting all their friends and showing up to an interest meeting," she said "We had about 35 girls at the interest meeting last year and finished the season with just under 30."

This year, there are 45 athletes on the roaster.

"Our senior team is now fully staffed 15 rugby team and about half of our players are in Grade 10; with only two seniors, which is an anomaly for a well-performing senior varsity rugby team."

Reflecting on the team's performance, Bennett said that she feels the rugby players have played well in their league. 

"We lost one game in the league, but we won our seven zones for senior girls last season," she said. "This year, we took home the 15 tier one zone banner; [a] huge accomplishment for such a young team, especially in their second year playing. The girls were just really excited that we could show people what we could do and put Bert Church on the map in terms of rugby in the province."

When asked what skills Bennet has been finessing with her players, she said that considering that the team was built from the ground up, there has been growth across the board.

"This year, I've really seen the girls put in the effort as far as fitness goes, even doing their workouts throughout the week, without the coaches and being willing to practice five days a week, and work hard the whole time," Bennet said. "I think that's a huge part of their success, and their willingness to come every day, learn the new sport and give it their all."

The rugby team will be heading to provincials this weekend, but Bennett said she is always looking towards the future.

"As a coach, you don't know how long you get with the girls and with the program; I've been trying to build a culture and a team that can stay strong for many years," she said. "I want to see Bert Church be one of the teams that is a regular provincials like Notre Dame, Calgary, Raymond - teams that compete every year."

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