Long road to nationals well worth the wait for Chelsey Minter
"When I was here before, we would have never dreamt of going to nationals. Now it is in the palm of our hands and we are ready to upset some teams."
Minter, a fifth-year prop, has been through it all in her Vikes career. From the lows of season long losing streaks to the highs of back-to-back berths at the national championships, Minter has seen the program mature into a contender, even if she was watching from afar for a while.
"Watching the team grow and build has been amazing, In the last three years there have been so many big steps to get this program to a level where it can contend with the other top teams in the nation," said Minter.
The current success the Vikes are enjoying stands in stark contrast to her previous experience with the team. Minter competed in a Vikes jersey for the first time nine years ago in 2007. The team lost 29-5 and didn't record a Canada West win until her third season of play.
Minter's route to the national championship is a circuitous one. She was only able to play four years of her eligibility before a broken leg suffered while playing for the B.C. provincial team forced her to sit out her final season.
After graduation, Minter spent a few years travelling and working, all while playing as much rugby as possible.
Deciding to go back to school to upgrade some courses with a plan of entering the education program, the stars aligned for both Minter and the Vikes.
"After I had registered it kind of clicked that we were hosting nationals and I had a year of eligibility left," said Minter.
"It worked out perfect to come back this year."
The differences in the team in her second spell with UVic are more than just the ones reflected in the standings.
"My first four years were good. We had great coaching and were pushed really hard, but now we have strength and conditioning coaches as well as specialist coaches that are able to come in and work with us," said Minter.
"The resources that we have and the work rate that the girls have outside of training are completely different."
The extra resources and the work put in by the team led to success, and Minter and her teammates are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that success continues.
"The drive now to continue winning for the school and for ourselves is so different. It's infectious. It just keeps raising the teams efforts and expectations."
The differences between the last time she played university rugby and today can't just be found in the Vikes though. Minter herself, has grown both on and off the field.
"I'm a lot more mature and even-keeled. I have national level aspirations that I am being helped to pursue because the team pushes me in every training session. I'm also a lot more appreciative of the school and what's it's offering outside of rugby," said Minter.
As a prop, Minter is a key cog in the Vikes establishing a physical presence on the field. Her work up front allows more room for her teammates to manoeuvre and her strong work in scrums has proven invaluable to the Vikes this year.
"Chelsey is a physical player. She plays with a lot of heart and intensity," said Vikes head coachBrittany Waters.
"She is game fit and has a high work rate, which allows to her to get around the field and be involved in a lot of the play.
With the Vikes preparing to host nationals on November 3-6, the energy around the team is at an all-time high. In Minter, the team has at least one player that is just happy to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level of university rugby in Canada.
"To be able to come back and play is a really special gift that I wouldn't have thought was possible.”