By Tyler Renaud 
BELLEVILLE – After a turbulent start to the season, the Loyalist Lancers women’s rugby team is finding its stride in the playoffs with a win over Conestoga College  this past weekend.
The team had four straight losses at the start of the season, but it finished strongly by beating Algonquin College 32-7  in its final regular-season game.
Ken Fitzgerald, head coach, says the women turned themselves around.
“They were all invested. Most people would turn their backs and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re just going to have one of those years.’ But we had great numbers at practice and they all trained very hard,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of our games were won and lost in little parts of the game where we just had hiccups and the other team seemed to get points on us. However, we seem to be peaking at the right time, so things look good.”
Hunter Clement, a second-year fly-half for Loyalist, echoes her coach’s thoughts.
“Commitment is what I think turned us around,” Clement said. “A lot more people have been going to practices, and that commitment has definitely influenced our performance.”
The Lancers would carry their momentum into their first-round playoff game against Conestoga – the first time the women’s rugby team had been in the playoffs since 2012. The team defeated  Conestoga 20-15 , earning the first playoff victory for women’s rugby at Loyalist.
“It’s really exciting! I am not going to lie. I didn’t know how far we were going to go because we only won one of our season games. Especially when we had to play the second-place team in the other division,” Clement said.
Fitzgerald said he knew his team had the ability to be successful.
“What sets this team apart this year is definitely the skill set. Our rugby IQ is crazy high on this team. The veteran players know their jobs,” he said. “This is the first year that we’ve really had good cohesion between our forwards and our backs. In the past we’ve been either a very heavy forward team and weak back team or really strong back team and not a very good forward team.”
Success also comes with a chance for redemption against a rival team as the Lancers’ next match-up comes against Fleming College , which beat them twice this season.
“I am looking forward to playing Fleming again. In the first game we were really close with them in the first half, then we kind of died. It was the beginning of the season, so maybe our cardio wasn’t so great,” Clement said.
The team takes on Fleming in the semifinals this Saturday at 12 p.m. in Peterborough.