MILL BAY — Shannon Atkins knows the biggest challenge comes Saturday.
“I don’t think it will be like last year,” the head coach of defending B.C. senior girls AAA ruby champion Shawnigan Lake said Friday afternoon after her team earned the right to defend its 2018 top-tiered provincial title against the same team is defeated in last season’s finale: North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles.
“They know how we play now, so we’re ready for a fight. We’re ready for a big challenge.”
Shawnigan struggled over the opening half Friday but finally got on track in the second to overwhelm Coquitlam’s Gleneagle Talons 42-5 in one of two semifinals staged at Shawnigan Lake.
In the other, those very same Eagles used a huge opening surge to build a 21-0 lead, before holding on to edge Abbotsford’s Yale Lions 21-17.
Last season, Shawnigan Lake won its first-ever senior varsity girls AAA crown with a 58-7 win over the Eagles.
Gleneagle’s game plan paid huge dividends as they trailed just 12-5 at halftime.
“Quite frankly, Gleneagle manhandled us for first 20 minutes,” said Atkins. “They they played us tighter and closer and used their forwards more and they controlled us. At first we couldn’t get possession. Once we got it, though, we were on fire.”
Gerry Atkins, a 10th grader making he first start at fullback, scored a pair of tries for the winners. Grade 12 inside centre Maggie Banks also scored a pair while Grade 11 wing Gracie MacAllister did likewise.
The Eagles, perennial provincial contenders since the turn of the century, opened their semifinal match against Yale with three straight Savannah Bauder penalty kicks for a 9-0 lead.
Patricia Charleson scored an unconverted try from her second row spot for 14-0 lead at halftime.
Carson’s Ashley Mulindi later intercepted a pass and raced from the halfway line to score and Bauder’s convert gave the Eagles a 21-0 lead
“Yale kind of started to spread it around and score a bit more,” added Baker of the Lions, who pulled to within four points by scoring a try at the final whistle.
Baker admits it will take the a certain level of perfection to topple Shawnigan Lake in Saturday’s AAA gold medal match.
“For us to win tomorrow it has to be a flawless game defensively,” he said. “They have so many offensive weapons, but if we minimize penalties we will have a good chance to win.”
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