Squad preps for Warriors

Looking to avenge last year's loss

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western women's rugby

Western’s women’s rugby team hopes to etch its name into the record books once again this Saturday as it takes on the Waterloo Warriors in the Ontario University Athletics final.

The ’Stangs intend to continue their dominance, having won three of the past four OUA titles and two of the last three Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships. The squad carries a perfect record into the contest having most recently disposed of last season’s spoilers, the Guelph Gryphons.

The victory against Guelph was a vindicating experience according to head coach Natascha Wesch.

“It wasn’t so much revenge as it was just to prove to ourselves that we’re the better team,” she said. “It wasn’t just a win, it was a thrashing.”

“It was the game our team has been waiting for since last year, and we did exactly what we needed to do,” winger Tanja Ness added.

Western has been outstanding in all seven victories this season, having outscored opponents 326 to 25. As well, four Mustangs place in the top six in the league in scoring; Ness is tops in the OUA with 69 points, which nearly doubles her closest adversary.

Western and Waterloo squared off in September with Western prevailing in a 41-8 victory on the road. However, according to forward Kelly Russell, home field advantage is trivial.

“If we do our stuff right, implement our game plan and just do the little things right, it doesn’t matter where we play,” she said.

While the final match appears to be a formality on paper, it’s not something the team takes lightly.

“We know Waterloo will be a tougher, stronger and prepared team,” Ness said.

“I know they will have done their homework and they are going to come out fighting hard,” Wesch added. “It’s not going to be a pushover.”

The game site, St. George’s Society rugby pitch, will also play host to the CIS championships starting next week. Western and Waterloo have already clinched their berths and will be paired in the same pool alongside Canada West champion, the University of Lethbridge.

Even with nationals quickly approaching, the team still remains dedicated to the OUA final.

“Right now our focus is on this weekend and this weekend only, but when the time comes, our focus will turn to the CIS,” Russell said.

Even with high expectations, there is no added pressure, according to Ness.

“I feel that with the team we have this year, if we continue to work hard in every game and practice, we will see success,” she said.

Team veteran Melissa Baer offered her own philosophical explanation.

“We are essentially just 15 rugby players [trying] to adapt to many different situations,” she said.

The Mustangs are playing with extra motivation as their teammate, Rachel Spearing is currently recovering in hospital after being hit by a car.

It’s an experience Wesch believes made the team’s bond even stronger.

“Things get put into a different perspective when someone basically escapes what could have been very tragic,” she said. “It kind of puts your problems aside and you really start to focus on the bigger picture and it definitely made our team come closer together.

“At the end of the day, it’s about friends and family, doing your best and making sure that you live the life that you want to live,” Wesch added.

Wesch believes Spearing will be released from hospital in the near future and will be able to make an appearance on the sidelines as a spectator for Saturday’s match-up.

Even with a sombre atmosphere, the team is confident in its abilities.

“I am pretty comfortable saying we are one of the best teams in the country,” Wesch said.

Western and Waterloo will battle for the OUA title tomorrow at 1 p.m. The CIS Championships begin Nov. 1 " all games will be played at St. George’s pitch.

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