Women's rugby aims to re-affirm prowess

Squad looks to send a message right from the get-go

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Women's rugby

Falling just short of the 2006 Ontario University Athletics title has driven the women’s rugby team straight to the gym in hopes of improving upon last year’s second place finish.

Mustang flyhalf and inside centre Jayne Cation stressed the importance of getting back on the horse after unexpectedly falling to the Guelph Gryphons 7-5 in the 2006 championship.

“Everyone has been hitting the gym a lot,” she said. “We are just trying to get in peak physical shape for the season.”

Teammate Nicole Bailey, who is a lock and back row in her fourth year with the team, agreed last year’s loss has motivated the squad to work even harder to demonstrate they are still among the best in the nation.

“I think players put in a lot of off-season training after the disappointing results at [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] nationals last year,” she said. “We’ve been putting a lot of time in at the weight room and running.

“Everyone plays club, at the provincial level, or at the highest level they can,” she added.

Mustangs head coach Natascha Wesch, who was recently named one of seven YMCA Women of Excellence, emphasized the importance of learning from the past, while remaining focused on the future.

“We’re using last year’s finish, which wasn’t what we wanted, as a little bit of fuel for the fire,” she said.

“However, we really aren’t focused on last year as much as we are focused on just really having a good season and having some good performances.”

With a training program that stresses fitness and fundamentals, things are looking good for the team’s 2007 campaign.

“[With a short season], you have a few games where you can build momentum, but you can’t have too many mistakes and that’s why we emphasize fitness,” Wesch said. “We have certain fitness standards that the players have to meet or else they can’t play.”

“We’re not preparing a whole lot differently than last year,” Wesch added. “We’re making sure that everyone has basic skills covered and we’re really focused on the fundamentals.”

Cation also revealed this year’s roster is bolstered by the addition of several new players, which should add more depth to the team’s already strong lineup of returning athletes.

“We have a large group of first years out,” she said. “We have 11 first years and 19 returning players, so there are a lot of fresh legs. There is a little bit of a different feel to the team, but it’s a good one.”

As for the squad’s immediate goals for the season, which kicked off yesterday afternoon with a game against the Brock Badgers, Bailey said a strong start is critical.

“It’s huge to set the tone for the season right from the start,” she said. “Particularly with our success in the past, a lot of eyes are on us. Other teams are looking for us to fail and we have to go out there and be the team to beat.”

Cation thinks the team is up to the task.

“We work our butts off and demolish the opposition,” she said.

When asked to describe her team and their style of play, Wesch offered a similar assessment.

“Hard-hitting, fast-running, really exciting rugby. I think that pretty much sums it up.”

The team’s next home game is this Sunday at 1 p.m. versus the Laurier Golden Hawks.

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