Pandas Rugby adds four key recruits for 2017-18 season

    Courtney Holtkamp, Lora Lee, Heidi Peake, and Emily Van Vliet announced as the newest Pandas on Friday

    By Connor Hood on May 12, 2017

    The six-time University sport champion Alberta Pandas rugby team bolstered an already deep and talented team, adding four key recruits to their 2017 roster. Head coach Matt Parrish has announced the additions of Courtney Holtkamp, Lora Lee, Heidi Peake, and Emily Van Vliet on Friday afternoon at Foote Field.  

    All four recruits are joining the Pandas by way of the Prairie Wolfpack program, and are poised to make an immediate impact for the Pandas in their rookie seasons.

    “These four recruits will be the backbone of our program for the next few years. Especially the positions they play (Hooker, Scrum Half, Fly Half and #8), they are considered the spine of the rugby team.” said Parrish on the additions. “To add high-quality girls here is pretty awesome. The fact that all of these recruits have already played at the Wolfpack level, I anticipate that they will step into starting roles as early as year one.”

    Lee (Flyhalf) and Holtkamp (#8) join the Pandas out of Rimbey High School, while Holtkamp was recently named to the Rugby Canada U18W team, who will play the United States this August.

    Peake, who joins the Pandas via Harry Ainlay High School in Edmonton, is poised to take over the Scrum Half position from graduating Captain Amanda Smith. Smith was named Pandas MVP in 2016/17, a Canada West and U SPORTS All-Star, and was nominated for University of Alberta Female Athlete of the Year.

    If the Van Vliet name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Emily’s grandfather, Maury Van Vliet, was a former Golden Bears basketball and football star, and was inducted into the University Of Alberta Sports Wall Of Fame in 1992. Her Great Grandfather, Maurice Van Vliet, transformed the Physical Education department of the U of A into a Faculty in 1964, serving as its Dean from 1945 to 1978. The Order of Canada recipient was inducted was also inducted into the Sports Wall of Fame, in 1985. The University’s Sport, Wellness and Recreation Complex are named in his honour.

    The Alberta Pandas earned a Canada West bronze medal in 2016, while also earning matching Canada West and National Rugby 7’s bronze medals last spring. The Calgary Dinos will host the 2017 Canada West Championship in October, while the Lethbridge Pronghorns will host the 2017 U SPORTS Championship in November.