The journey to the national championship begins on Sunday, with the Gee-Gees women's rugby team hitting the road to Sherbrooke to take on the Vert et Or.
For the second time in program history, the team will host the U SPORTS National Championship, with the 2019 edition slated for October 30 to November 3 at Matt Anthony Field.
Despite the guaranteed berth, the team remains focused on the present in preparing for the first week of regular season play.
"We're just thinking about Sherbrooke right now. Then we'll have six days to get ready for Laval, and that's how it's going to go for the next 10 weeks," said Gee-Gees head coach Jen Boyd. "
"We're very process driven, so we talk about focusing on week-to-week," Boyd explained. "For the first time we're guaranteed to go, so obviously there's less pressure in that aspect, but there's a different amount of pressure with being at home and expectations here, especially with what our women's soccer team did last year."
The new season will present new challenges for the Garnet and Grey. A new format in the RSEQ will see the Gee-Gees take on the trio of Sherbrooke, Laval and Carleton twice each this season. In the past, the season featured the Gee-Gees taking on all seven RSEQ teams once.
"It's definitely going to be more challenging than past years," fourth-year back Georgia Stewart said. "Each game we're going to have to be ready for a fight, they are going to be challenging games, but I do believe that will help us heading into nationals."
"Going into Sunday we're all excited to get our first game going."
The Gee-Gees have experienced a high level of success over the past five seasons, with a national championship in 2017, in addition to a pair of bronze medals, a silver medal, and a fourth-place finish on the national stage.
This season, a strong mixture of returning veterans and eager rookies are working to carry that legacy forward.
"The last couple years, all they really know is the success of the program," Boyd said. "This is definitely a very young team, there's quite a bit of pressure on the older athletes to instill in them the culture and the things we've talked about since 2013. That's what they're doing really well."
"The recruits coming in have really pushed the pace of the team," fourth-year centre Rachel McCallan said. "It seems like we're playing October rugby already, which is really exciting going into our first regular season game."
Tickets for the Gee-Gees' home opener on Sept. 7, in addition to tournament passes for the 2019 U SPORTS National Championship are available now at tickets.geegees.ca.