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The Cougars went 5-1 in regular season to repeat championship appearance at seasons end

PMG FILE PHOTO:  - Canby and Linn Benton gather for a picture after their championship game.
Once again, Canby's girls' 10s rugby team ran through the regular season all the way up to the championship game, this time at Western Oregon University on Saturday, May 18.

While the team ultimately got shut out against the No. 1 ranked Linn Benton Lady Lions 43-0 at the end of the day, the strength of the program is ultimately strong. Throughout the regular season the Cougars went 5-1 with victories including blowout victories of Lake Oswego, Centennial High School, and the Black Bears. The lone loss in that time was to eventual champion Linn Benton.

That season trajectory also mirrored the run the Cougars went on last year, winning all but one regular season game, and falling to that same team in the championship. Despite reaching the championship in two years coach Madison Mitchell is still aiming higher, and not just looking for the league title.

"The program is looking really good," Mitchell said. "This year we were going for a 15s team, and it didn't end up happening with early injuries and stuff, so we went 10s. But we're trying to move to a 15s team because it's just a more competitive league. That's our goal for next year, getting more freshmen so we can get to that 15s league so they have more competition like Linn Benton."

The team's numbers will need to swell in the offseason if it wants to make the jump up in league, but also to replace the talented senior class that graduates. Among those leaving the team will be Maren Gingerich, Canby's winner for Minuteman Player award. The dedicated senior has been a leader for the team over the past few years, and the sport of rugby has left its mark on her, and not just in the bruising on her cheek.

"Rugby is more than a sport to me, it's transformed me throughout the years and I think the environment in rugby is really unique," Gingerich said. "It's different from any other sport. What other sport are you going to see the first and second place teams laughing together and taking pictures together and having a great time?"

Gingerich will be taking her love of the sport with her into college, into the small town of Grinnell, Iowa where she will attend, you guessed it, Grinnell College. PMG FILE PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Maren Gingerich chases down a Linn Benton player.

"They have a men's club rugby team, but not a women's club rugby team," Gingerich said. "I was hoping to start that up. I talked to the college already and they were receptive to starting an intermural rugby team if there's enough interest, so I'm going to try it out and see if I can get enough interest in it."

For first year coach Mitchell, seeing Gingerich go off to college to continue to embrace her love of rugby, as well as seeing college scouts eyeing the juniors of her team, is something she takes pride in.

"As a coach, it feels really good to have the girls get scouted," Mitchell said. "I love all the girls, and I see so much potential, and it would feel really good to watch them all continue after high school."

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