Lady ruggers set sights high
By Robert Stevens
This year's edition of the Western women's rugby team has the challenge of competing on the field while also raising awareness and interest for its sport. With its fourth season about to begin, the women's rugby program can still be considered to be in its infancy.
Last year's team finished with a 5-1 record and came second in the OWIAA. Without question, interest in the sport at Western has developed to the point where last year there was an A and B squad for the first time.
"There's a lot of potential on this team and we're far more serious and professional this year," co-captain Megan Haney said. "It's amazing how fast the team has come together after only one game. All of the players are very committed."
Natascha Wesch, who has coached the team since its inaugural season in 1994, hopes they can improve on last year's showing and shoot for the top spot in the division. With many returning players and a fresh group of new recruits, she feels confident in the team's chances of meeting that goal.
This season, the Mustang contingent features four players who played at the provincial level co-captains Haney and Jodie Miller, both of whom played for the Canadian Junior team, Tamara Curtis, who played on Ontario's provincial squad and Vickey Peacey, a member of Quebec's team.
The experience of the squad as a whole has improved due to a rise in popularity of women's high school rugby and the growing number of club teams.
"Last year we had a lot of inexperience in the backs," Miller said. "We know how to handle different circumstances and pressure better now."
With a new commitment to fitness this year, Wesch hopes to get the most out of her players in the short six-week season and the initial signs have been good as Western defeated Waterloo 20-0 in exhibition play last Friday.
HOT POTATO, HOT POTATO!! The lady ruggers hope to hold onto the ball this year all the way to the provincial title.
This year's strongest competition should come from Guelph, who won the division title last year with McMaster and Toronto also sporting strong teams.
"We don't want to just beat Guelph and win the OWIAAs," Haney said. "We want to kick their butts."
The program will receive an additional boost with the announcement of a planned tour of Ireland in February. The lady ruggers will be following the lead of Western's male squad, which visited the land of the leprechauns earlier this year.
Western's first regular season game will be tomorrow, when they play host to Brock. Game time is at 6 p.m.