Pronghorns Created Southern Alberta Dynasty
Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
If there was a travel website for the Canadian university rugby
championships, the reviews would be near perfect.
From Victoria to Halifax, the hosts have rolled out the welcome
mat, made the guests feel right at home, and even sent them
away a souvenir trophy, compliments of the house.
That will be the case yet again this weekend when the University
of Lethbridge hosts the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby
Championship. Everywhere, that is, except at Lethbridge’s
Community Sports Stadium, where the three-time national
champion Pronghorns are hoping for a little home eld
This is the 20th edition of the annual championship, and thus far
the host school won just twice: the 2003 Alberta Pandas and the
2008 Pronghorns, who downed St. Francis Xavier 29-15 in the
gold medal match.
“To be really honest, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a huge
advantage when we hosted,” says Pronghorns coach Neil
Langevin, who guided the team to three straight national titles
from 2007 to 2009. “It was probably the most stressful season
that we had just because we knew expectations were pretty
“But is there no doubt that the home crowd in Lethbridge
(helps). It’s pretty famous for being a large crowd. We’ve drawn
a thousand fans for well over 10 years here and they’re very loud
and vocal. This year we have a young group, so there’s no doubt
that playing at home is going to be an advantage for us this year.”
In the history of rugby nationals, 13 schools have failed to
10 CANADA WEST YEARBOOK
protect their turf, including four that hosted and lost twice. Thus,
Langevin, who was in charge of Lethbridge women’s rugby from
the program’s inception in 2000 until 2012 before returning this
season, has seemingly cracked the code that continues to ba e
so many others.
“It built up quite a bit in the tournament in 2008,” says Langevin,
whose team faced not only the pressures of hosting but the
weighty expectations of being defending champs. “I’ve always
tried to ensure that athletes see me as level and calm-headed,
but I also know that the players felt that pressure of playing in
front of family and friends.”
Their 2008 title neatly t into the narrative as middle chapter
of the Pronghorns’ three-peat. In 2007, Lethbridge captured
their rst national championship by upsetting – ttingly – the
host team, Western, in London, Ont. By 2009, the Pronghorns
had morphed into a juggernaut, out-scoring the opposition by
306 points over six matches in the Canada West regular season
and championship tournament, before going 4-0 at Nationals
in Vancouver, capped with a gold medal triumph for a second
straight time against St. FX.
“The rst national win was unexpected, the second was a very
hard battle, and the third one, we were pretty well entrenched
and that team was very deep and very strong,” says Langevin.
The Pronghorns opened the 2008 tournament with a pair of
convincing round-robin wins, over Western and Laval. The
hosts then decimated Guelph, 39-3, in the semi nal to set up a
championship match against the X-Women.
“That was probably one of the better games we’ve encountered,”
Langevin says. “We were behind until the second half, but the
heart was there throughout and they just refused to stop and