It didn't take long for the Pandas Rugby team to add their latest recruit, as they announced Edmonton product Melina Ioannides will join the program for the 2019/20 season.
Ioannides joins the Pandas out of the Nor'Westers Rugby club in Edmonton, as well as the Green and Gold Athlete Academy and the Junior Pandas club at the University of Alberta. The scrum half was also named the 2018 Edmonton Rugby Junior Women's Player of the Year last fall.
"It's been a long time coming. I've obviously known Melina for quite a few years, and have been keeping an eye on her and her development for quite some time," said Pandas head coach Matt Parrish. "I'm delighted she has decided to stay here and join our program. As a player, she's a fearless worker. Works incredibly hard at her position at scrum half, and you get the added bonus of her physicality."
Ioannides joins a talented group of players at scrum half for the Pandas, including 2018 starters Athea Volpe and Cara Park.
"Honestly, this is so exciting, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm really happy with my decision, and think the U of A is the perfect place for me." said Ioannides. "I grew up watching the Pandas, being around the university a lot, so it's awesome knowing I'll be able to continue some of the Ioannides legacy here."
Not only does Melina have the strong connections with the Pandas thanks to her time with the Pandas Junior teams, but is also the daughter of former Golden Bears Wrestling Coach and current UAlberta Associate Athletic Director Vang Ioannides.
"It's quite cool. I've joked with a few people in the rugby community about having the bosses daughter on the team, but I think it's awesome, and she deserves to be here." continued Parrish. "I like that Vang will be able to see his daughter play for the Pandas. She's an excellent player, she's not afraid to get in there, make the tackles and get the ball."
The Pandas 2019 season will begin next September at Foote Field, as they aim for their record 11th Canada West Championship.