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Ironmaidens rugby team vying for league upgrade

When it comes to women’s sports at UNB, few teams are as perennially successful as the Ironmaidens rugby team. Coming off a good 2013-2014 season, in which the team fell in heartbreaking fashion to Dalhousie University in the Maritime finals, the team is set to kick off another run at a championship.

The Maritime title isn’t the only thing the Ironmaidens have their eyes on, however. The team has announced that it is vying for a position in the more competitive Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) for the 2015 season.

In May 2014, the ACAA passed a motion permitting associate members into their ranks. An associate member is comprised of an institution that participates in one or two of the following sports — volleyball, badminton, cross country, golf and rugby. After discussions with the two teams from UNB, it was decided that golf and women’s rugby will be applying to join the ACAA league.

If the application process goes as planned, the two teams will be eligible to participate in the ACAA beginning in the fall of 2015.

“We are currently working on the application process, which we will formally submit in October. From there, the request will need to be voted on by the full members of the ACAA in their fall general meeting,” said James Cress, the coordinator of intramural sports and sports clubs at UNB.

If the request for UNB to join as an associate member is approved “in spirit,” the teams will be tentatively included in the scheduling process for the 2015-2016 season. Formal admittance into the ACAA will need to occur at the ACAA annual general meeting in May 2015.

“Both UNB teams are very excited about the prospect of playing in the ACAA league,” said Cress.

While the move to the ACAA has yet to be approved, Frances MacWilliam — a third-year physics major who leads the Ironmaidens both on and off the field as captain and club president — believes that the team is prepared to make the jump.

“We’re excited for the new level of competition that this league will bring,” she said. “It will also give us more teams to play throughout the season, which will give us many more opportunities to develop and improve as a team.

“Last year there were only three teams in our league — us, Acadia and Dalhousie. This year we have five, as they have added two more teams to our division.”

Although MacWilliam appreciates the addition of teams from the University of New Brunswick Saint John and a Nova Scotia club team, she believes that the level of competition is much fiercer in the ACAA.

“We’re looking forward to playing strong teams such as Dalhousie Agricultural College, Mount Allison University and St. Thomas University,” she said.

When asked what challenges playing in this new league will present, MacWilliam said that when it comes time to join the ACAA next season, the team will be permitted to draw solely from the UNB student population to fill their roster. Currently there are several members from the outside community playing for the Ironmaidens.

While the future of women’s rugby at UNB is still up in the air, there is no questioning the success of the Ironmaidens in their opening game of the season.

The Ironmaidens defeated Acadia University’s club team at home on Sept. 13, with a score of 40-17.

“Overall, the game went really well for us,” said MacWilliam. “We have lots of new players on the field, with only eight-to-10 returnees on the team. The rookies really stepped up and showed us what they can do, and definitely contributed.”

One star rookie to look out for is Brianna Ford, who is joining the Ironmaidens after a stellar career with the Varsity Reds soccer team.

The Ironmaidens’ next home game will be taking place Saturday, Oct. 4 against the defending champions, Dalhousie.

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