Heading into her second season with the Gee-Gees women's rugby team, Maya Montiel is poised to take another step forward in her rugby journey. From Dieppe, N.B., to the U SPORTS national championships with uOttawa, the five-foot-ten Montiel just returned from three weeks with Canada's national U20 team at the Tri-Nations Cup, lining up against England and the USA.
Montiel was the starting prop for Canada against England and also wore number 18 in the tournament-opening win over the USA. It was Montiel's first time playing for Canada.
"It's an indescribable feeling. When you sing the anthem, you choke up because it's overwhelming," says Montiel of her first time in the red and white kit. The experience was made up of much more than just the three-game series though, as the team worked for three weeks to develop.
"We worked really hard and we became stronger and better players. I had to bring my best self at every practice, every meeting, and every game," explains the Gee-Gees representative, noting that having Olympian Kelly Russell on hand was another big highlight. "We really took time to focus on how to be better and work together. My learning experience was incredible."
The camp took place in Halifax, bring Montiel back to the East Coast. As a 16-year old, she competed for Nova Scotia at the U18 national championship, as New Brunswick did not field a team. "My city is really close – being from a tight community helped me develop as a player when I was there, but then I had to take a step over and move to Ottawa."
"When I moved to Ottawa, it was to ensure that I could continue to improve in rugby and my first year helped me so much," says Montiel who dressed in all seven regular season games as a rookie and also scored three tries. "I've been working hard and was very happy, obviously, to be selected and I think that being in Ottawa helped me at the national team level."
In turn, the national team experience will now feed Montiel and the Gee-Gees as they defend the national title.
"Taking part in an international competition means Maya is going to bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the younger players in particular and also to the older players this season," says Gee-Gees head coach Jen Boyd, who has seen numerous Gee-Gees go through the U20 program during her five seasons at uOttawa.
"We're really looking forward to Maya's growing contributions and the leadership role that she's going to play. She will be a key contributor in the tight five – with her size, strength, and conditioning I think she has an opportunity to stand out across the country this season."
"I became a more confident player and I really want to bring that onto the field with the Gee-Gees. I know a lot of girls have a lot of potential and I'm really excited. We've already set a lot of goals and we just want to achieve them so we have to keep building every practice," Montiel affirms.
The Gee-Gees women's rugby team - 2017 U SPORTS National Champions and four-time RSEQ conference champions - began training camp this week. The team opens the 2018 regular season at home on Sept. 3 against the Laval Rouge et Or – the national runners up and RSEQ silver medalists from 2017. All regular season and playoff women's rugby home games will be webcast this season on OUA.tv.