September 17, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 11  

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Ruggers mix youth and age

By Alison Stolz
Gazette Writer

Sandy Rush/Gazette
FEEL THE WRATH OF MY STRAIGHT-ARM CHICKEN WING. The Western women's rugby team plans on sending a message to this year's OUA competition... and eat lots of chicken.

The women's rugby team is back and its members aren't willing to rest on their laurels.

After winning silver medals last year in both the Ontario University Athletics and Canadian Interuniversity Sport finals, it will be a challenge for this year's Mustangs to better their own titles. However, according to head coach Natascha Wesch, that's exactly the goal for this year's team.

"We are pretty excited about the upcoming season," Wesch said. "We have a really strong core of returning players and our recruitment served us well."

The team is comprised of 19 returning and 13 new players, all with high levels of athletic ability. The roster of 32 players has increased from last year's team of 30, a decision deemed necessary for a successful season due to the high frequency of injuries. For example, during the latter part of the summer a player that planned on returning tore her ACL and while she is currently responding well to rehab, if surgery is required then an extra player is available to fill the empty spot. As well, one player is currently unavailable because of mononucleosis; she's also not yet fully recovered.

This past weekend, the Mustangs got their first taste of victory at the University of Toronto with a 19-11 win. It wasn't until the second half the team really got into a groove, scoring all 19 points.

The team has now realized its obvious strengths and weaknesses and intends to work on building team cohesion. "There were many individual performances in the game, but it will just be a matter of time until the players work together [as a team]," Wesch stated.

As a result of this year's double cohort, the pool of potential players was much larger than in years past. Because of this, the team has benefited from a much higher level of athletic aptitude and rugby skills than the previous year. The experiences of a number of players who have played at the junior national and provincial national level adds not only enhanced playing ability, but leadership potential as well.

Two players to watch out for this year are veterans Jen Kryszak and Kristen Ferguson. Kryszak played at the senior provincial level while Ferguson was part of the "Under-23" national team this summer. With so much talent on the team, Wesch believes "it's just a matter of putting it all together and taking the gold."

Anyone interested in watching the team in action can catch the Mustangs take on the Waterloo Warriors next Wed., Sep. 24 at 4 p.m. The game takes place on the rugby pitch, which is located across the street from the former site of J.W. Little Stadium.



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