HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The odds for success appeared to be against the Ottawa Pirates, when they entered the women’s division at the Mary Brown’s Canadian touch football championships Thanksgiving weekend in Markham, ON.
More than a decade old, the Pirates’ organization has never won a national championship and this time around the streak looked like it might continue as the hurdles seemed rather high. Their opposition appeared younger, faster and carried more players on their roster.
Plus, the Pirates hadn’t played a league game since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while other clubs in the province had been going full steam since late spring.
At least the Pirates were dedicated to regular practices this season. But practices aren’t anything like playing the real games.
After playing six games on rain-slicked fields over three days, the Pirates not only overcame their challenges, but also won the women’s class A championship for their first Canadian touch football title.
Despite losing 14-13 to Toronto Storm in their preliminary playoff game and losing an opportunity to chase the higher class AA championship, the Pirates excelled in the class A division with a pair of tight victories.
The Pirates defeated Montreal Volts 15-12 in their semifinal and held off Toronto Misfits 14-8 in the championship game. Earlier, the Pirates eased into the national tournament, defeating the Volts 12-0 and GTA Foxes 13-0 before falling to Toronto Rebels 27-0 in round-robin action.
“We were very excited to win a national championship,” team captain Angelina Villa wrote in an email. She plays centre on offence and short middle on defence.
The Pirates dressed nine or 10 players for most games, leaving the Pirates with only two or three substitutes on the bench, which was one of the smallest benches in the championship. But the Pirates’ play was “determined and feisty,” said Villa.
“The biggest accomplishment was that even though we have had no league play this season in Ottawa, we managed to beat teams that have had full leagues running since the late spring,” she added. “We have been practising diligently all season, but only against ourselves.
“It is hard to prepare for such high-level play, when you cannot practice real game scenarios. It was also very challenging field conditions with heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday, making the field very mucky and difficult to move the ball and legs.”
Despite all their challenges, the Pirates used their experience to their advantage.
“All the teams we faced have been playing full tilt since June, getting far more play and practice time,” Villa continued. “We also had two key players returning to play, after having babies in the off-season, which makes this an even more incredible feat.
“We faced younger, faster and outnumbered squads, but we were able to use our experience as an asset.”
The members of the national women’s class A championship team were: Jackie Pearson, Margherita Bastianelli, Danielle Plaschy, Maddi Chartrand, Emilia Edwards, Mel Mayer, Stephanie Carr, Angelina Villa, Amy Argel, Maddy Wakefield and Brittany McVittie.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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