Comox rugby player enters junior year at American university

Comox rugby player Hazel Bice enjoys coaching younger players when home from university. Photo supplied

Hazel Bice of Comox is about to enter her junior year at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she studies nursing and plays on the women’s rugby team.

The 20-year-old forward earned a scholarship to attend the Division 1 school, but it isn’t a full ride because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) considers rugby to be an emerging sport. Over the past year, Bice and the women Bobcats have been building a strong team culture and refining their skills, which paid off with a pair of wins in April over state rival Sacred Heart.

A new season starts in September.

“I really like attending school in the U.S.,” Hazel said. “I’ve always loved experiencing new things and taking risks, and this was definitely one that has paid off. I knew that I would always regret it if I didn’t go.”

Hazel grew up in North Vancouver but attended Shawnigan Lake School. Her team won B.C. rugby titles in 2016 and 2018. That year, she played with the Kickers Rugby Club when her family moved to the Valley.

She comes by her rugby talents naturally. Her father, Richard Bice, played on the national men’s team that competed at the 1999 World Cup. He coaches the boys’ team at Isfeld Secondary, where Hazel helps out when home from school. Her mother, Mimi Appelbe, coaches the girls’ team at Isfeld. She has also coached at the BC Summer Games, as well as the 2019 B.C. U16 team, which Hazel managed. Appelbe is the vice-principal at Brooklyn Elementary, where she incorporates rugby into P.E. classes. Recently, she and other coaches started a local team called Rapids Rugby, which has already attracted more than 50 girls, 10-18 years. Hazel helps coach the team.

“I love watching the sport grow here, and see young girls have the opportunity to play with each other outside of high school,” she said. “I started playing rugby when I was four, and I didn’t have the opportunity to play with other girls until I reached high school.”

Hazel has been working at Crown Isle Resort between school terms. Last summer she hosted and this year she started serving. She plans to return home after graduating from university.

“I love coaching younger players. I coached the U14 Tsunami team in 2019 which was challenging but very fun. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to watch my parents coach and follow in their footsteps. I’ve always loved working with kids, and there’s nothing better than coaching my favourite thing to a younger generation.”

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Hazel Bice and her mother Mimi Appelbe at the BC Summer Games in 2018. Photo supplied

Hazel Bice and her mother Mimi Appelbe at the BC Summer Games in 2018. Photo supplied