Wesch set to take on the world
By Michelle Crespi
When the first game of the 1998 Women's Rugby World Cup gets under way this May in the Netherlands, Western's own Natascha Wesch will be there, focused and ready to compete in her second World Cup championship.
As coach of the Mustang women's rugby team, Wesch will be joining the Canadian national team for the seventh consecutive year when they begin play against the Netherlands in the tournament opener May 1.
The scrum-half began her rugby career in 1991, playing for Concordia University and the Montreal Barbarians. A native of Montreal, Wesch was on the Quebec provincial team for four years before she moved to London in 1994 to complete her masters. While going to Western she also competed on the Ontario provincial team.
"I am really excited about going. I feel physically and mentally prepared," Wesch said.
Going into the World Cup ranked sixth, Wesch feels the goal of the Canadian team this year is to make the finals. At the 1994 World Cup the team finished sixth, but were hoping for a top four finish.
"Coaching and cohesiveness were a problem. The Canadian team is only able to practice once every three or four months because of distance," Wesch explained. "The stronger teams like the Netherlands practice more frequently since they only have to drive four hours to practice."
However, a new coach has turned the Canadian team around.
After many years of coaching both the men's and women's Ontario teams, Kevin Jones is taking on the position of head coach at the national level. This comes as good news for Wesch, as Jones is her coaching mentor and has allowed her game to jump to a whole new level.
"I am pleased with the team's performance this season. They have played very well," Jones said.
Western made another contribution to the national team as Meagan Haney, co-captain of the Mustangs, was selected for the reserve roster. Haney has played on the Ontario team for four years and this is her second year on the national team's short list.
"It is a big step for her. She is a talented player," Wesch said.
Jones agreed with Wesch and is confident about Haney's abilities improving down the road. "Meagan is a young player. She is starting for Ontario now, so that's promising for her future."
Wesch said she is very honoured to represent Canada and Jones is happy to have her as part of his team.
"Natascha is very committed and passionate about the game," Jones said. "She is a real student of the game and coaching at Western has brought her game to a new level. I wish there were more players like her."
Western's head coach is excited for the World Cup, which runs from May 1 to 16 and wants to prove she is one of the best scrum-halfs in the world.
"My game has changed so much," Wesch said. "I want to show how much I have improved."
She attributed her success to the support of her players and fellow coaches at Western. "I am very fortunate to have all of their support."