Abbotsford senior fly half Tausani Levale completes her high school career by helping lead the Panthers to their first B.C. AA title since 2014, Saturday over Lake City at hometown Rotary Stadium. (Special for Varsity Letters, Wilson Wong/UBC athletics)
Feature High School Rugby

Abbotsford rugby: Sisterhood of Panthers celebrates first B.C. AA title since 2014

ABBOTSFORD — Tausani Levale could write an entire volume about her B.C. high school rugby experiences with the Abbotsford Panthers. 

And after what happened Saturday on the pitch at Rotary Stadium, her memoirs will both open and close with championship chapters at the B.C. girls Double-A tournament.

It’s a story which opened in her Grade 9 season of 2014 in which she and her then-Grade 11 sister Nakisa each scored tries in the Panthers’ cross-city derby win over Robert Bateman.

Now, it’s a story whose high school chapter closes with a 41-10 win over Williams Lake’s Lake City Falcons in Saturday’s championship final, one in which she scored a key early try and booted three converts.

“She’s not the little sister anymore,” said Panthers’ co-coach Stephanie Doan, who brought aboard Levale’s uncle Some Mosogau to guide the team’s fortunes this season. There has been a Levale on the team every season since 2013, and over that Span the Panthers have never missed playing in a B.C. final, winning three titles.

“She has just brought us more of the same kinds of things she has always given us,” continued Doan of Tausani Levale, whose finished her high school career by playing in four straight B.C. finals. “Amazing footwork. Leadership. Heart.”

It’s not that Abbotsford’s rugby dynasty had fallen on hard times. Anything but.

A 59-28 win over Bateman in Friday’s semifinal sent Abby to its sixth straight B.C finals appearance.

However after winning three straight titles (2012-14), the Panthers had experienced a little heartbreak, losing in 2015’s final 14-0 to Brentwood College, and then in last season’s, 34-7 to Shawnigan Lake.

After back-to-back silver medal finishes the past two seasons, the Abbotsford rejoice in a golden moment Saturday at Rotary Stadium. (Special for Varsity Letters by Wilson Wong/UBC athletics)

Doan, however, loved the chemistry this season of youth and experience created by the influx of middle-school talent to her veteran group.

On Saturday, it was a group which included Levale, Ashlynn Smith, Laura Powers, Brittney Hunter Steffani Ribeiro, Kylee Lacey and Kashish Arya who led the run back to the top of the mountain.

“We’ve got more of a legacy at the school,” said Doan. “Success breeds interest and we’ve had a great core of veteran players mesh with a whole bunch of player that came up from Abby Middle.”

In the final, the Panthers opened a 31-0 lead before the Falcons were able to respond with an unconverted score just before the half.

On the day, Smith, Levale, Trinity Pedersen, Hunter and Arya, the latter with three straight tries, all took the ball in-goal.

“The biggest thing we did today was to play defence,” said Levale after she and her teammates met the Falcons for the first time all season. “We didn’t treat them any different from any other team but we knew we had to watch out for their No. 8, Emma Feldinger.”

Lake City had advanced to the championship tilt with a 51-5 semifinal win Friday over Kamloops’ Valleyview Vikings.

In the Tier 2 B.C. Final played early Saturday morning, Surrey’s Elgin Park Oracs beat Richmond’s Hugh McRoberts Strikers 24-17.

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