Samantha Lillywhite and Mikayla Brennan-McCann display their silver medals from the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championships. Both girls are headed to Vegas with BC Elite Youth Sevens teams this week. (Citizen file)

Samantha Lillywhite and Mikayla Brennan-McCann display their silver medals from the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championships. Both girls are headed to Vegas with BC Elite Youth Sevens teams this week. (Citizen file)

Island rugby players off to Vegas Sevens elite tourney

Players from Greater Victoria, Cowichan and Nanaimo part of touring squad

Several Vancouver Island-based rugby players are among more than three dozen from across the province on BC Elite Youth Sevens teams bound for the Las Vegas Invitational this week.

The three BC Elite teams — boys, U18 girls and U16 girls — are expecting tough competition at the highly regarded tournament.

“The American teams, already highly athletic, have made significant gains in tactics and game understanding in the last four years which will put the team under pressure,” said B.C. boys head coach Tony LaCarte, who is hoping for a top-three finish after placing fifth in the Boys High School Elite Division last year. “Our aim with our BCEY7s team is to expose them to a high-performance Rugby Sevens environment and see who can step up to play at this level.”

Island representation on the boys team will come from Matt McDougall-Percillier, Siôn Griffiths who call Mill Bay home, attend Brentwood College School and play for the Cowichan Rugby Football Club. Zephyr Melnyk also plays for the CRFC, but lives on Gabriola Island and attends Nanaimo District Secondary. Joshua Elbourne of Esquimalt High, and Tom Abercrombie, Oak Bay High, are also on the team.

Both B.C. girls teams will feature lots of new talent, something program head and U18 coach Darcy Patterson is excited to see.

“It will be a good marker of the depth in our province, as well as a great experience for this group to showcase all they have been working on,” Patterson said.

The U18 girls side will include Island products Kelsey White, Brittany Gardiner, Amelia Gordon and Maelle Reed of a strong Castaway Wanderers RFC contingent. The squad rounded out by Ella O’Regan of the James Bay Athletic Association and MJ Jumeau of Cowichan Secondary/CRFC.

The U16 girls squad will include Mia Eagar (Cowichan Secondary/CRFC), and Mikayla Brennan-McCann and Samantha Lillywhite (both Shawnigan Lake School/CRFC), Sierra Gillis of Belmont Secondary, Libby Hogg of the James Bay Athletic Association and Chloe Hill Huse, Castaway Wanderers RFC.

All three B.C. teams leave for Vegas on Wednesday for the tournament, with games taking place on March 1-3. Visit bcrugby.com or usasevens.com for more information.