Ruggers gearing up for big season
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Ruggers gearing up for big season
By Jessica Leeder
After a successful weekend away from the Forest City, the Western women's rugby team is looking to continue their good fortune as they host their season opener against the Windsor Lancers tonight.
Western wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a 10-0 loss to Waterloo last Friday and a close 22-21 win over Guelph on Sunday. Despite the team's preseason loss, head coach and Canadian National Women's Rugby Team member Natascha Wesch, said the weekend was a good indicator her team is shaping up for a fundamentally strong season.
"We're focusing on what we need to do to play solid rugby, not just game to game winning. I think this weekend gave the players a chance to get to know each other and respect each other as people and as players on the field, which should make for a successful season."
With the recent changes made this year to the rules of Ontario University Athletics Rugby, Wesch's prophecy has a chance of becoming a reality. Because of the demanding schedule the 1999 season imposed an average of two games a week per team the OUA has been divided into two pools four teams in each division, which means each team will play less games.
Wesch noted that having two pools will be beneficial in that it will reduce every team's schedule to no more than one game per week. Thus, athletes will have sufficient time to recuperate or nurse injuries. "Last season every team suffered as a result of playing too many games against each other and as a result of that, recovery time for the athletes was insufficient," she said.
Last year Western rounded out a solid regular season with a second place finish, only to have their wheels come off in post-season play. They finished fourth overall and are still hungry for the championship title Guelph took home in 1999.
Gryphons head coach Jim Atkinson commented on Western's poor finishing last season, saying he expects a better showing from them in 2000.
"In my opinion, Western really had a good season going but seemed to fall back on their heels a little near the end. They had a couple of bad games at the wrong time, which gave a bad impression of their program when in all honesty, their team had a lot of talent."
With this season's round-robin changes, the league is set up so the top teams from each pool will meet each other in a playoff. Atkinson is touting his team and Western as the most probable match-up in the finals.
"Separating Western and Guelph into two divisions is only delaying the inevitable. The top two teams will eventually play each other in the finals [of the OUA] and I expect it will be Western against us."
Mustangs' co-captain Judy McCartney, a third year flanker, said she is confident her team is ready to kick off a strong season. "We will be contenders in the league for sure and playing less games in a week will help us have a better run through the regular season."
Atkinson spoke highly of Western's chances at a title this year, saying he expects them to be nothing less than strong competition for his defending champions. "Western's time is due. They have to be disappointed about what they have achieved with the talent they have had in the past few years. Rightfully, this should be their year."