The snow is melted, the sun is out; it’s time for rugby season.The West Chester women’s rugby team is starting up the spring campaign of their 2008-09 season, and coming off their EPRU championship in the fall, the only focus they have in the spring is the NCAA title.
Head Coach Tony DeRemer sets up what the spring will look like for the team. First up for the Lady Rams are James Madison University and the University of Delaware. These two games ultimately mean nothing. They are specifically a warm up for West Chester to get ready for their most important game during the spring season; Virginia Tech.
This game is the quarterfinal match-up in the Mid Atlantic region, and will take place on March 21. The winner of that game will go to the semi-finals in Charlottesville, Va. the next weekend, and earn an automatic spot in the National Tournament. If West Chester does not prevail in the contest, their season is over.
The semi-final weekend in Virginia is not win or die. All four teams will be going to the Sweet 16. Each team will play both Saturday and Sunday, despite their performance, and their final seeding in Nationals will be based off their record there. the USA Rugby Division I Nationals will take place April 17-19 in Sanford, Florida.
How the team does in the following weeks all comes back to the pre-season workouts taking place now, and Coach DeRemer thinks he has just the extra ingredient they need to succeed. His new approach this year was bringing in some outside help from two strength and conditioning coaches, Ian Hardin and Jeremey Cabot. Under the supervision of these two, the team has been training diligently and has a newfound confidence for JMU next weekend.
“I believe that it is very important to have the confidence of fitness and strength being on your side when you enter these games, especially when you start getting into the playoffs,” stated DeRemer.
He attributes the team’s fitness to their victory over Princeton in the EPRU championship game, where the women outlasted the Tigers in the final half to score 27 unanswered points in an inspiring comeback. “Everyone has been working so hard already this season, and I am very proud of their commitment to start the season in a positive way,” he added. DeRemer says that the team is “reaping the benefits” of the physically demanding workouts.
One factor that has a possibility of playing into the teams outcome is their lack of experience. The Golden Rams consist of only three seniors this season, with a lot of young talent being brought on this year. Many of the players have not been to this point before. A lot is riding on the experienced players and captains Erin Furlong and Sasha Stauffer and how they handle the leadership roles.
“I am sure the team will rise to the occasion and perform to the best of their abilities when it comes down to it, they always do,” stated DeRemer.
The first game against Virginia Tech will be difficult, DeRemer admits. Tech is a very big and physical team, compared to West Chester, who is more about finesse and speed. “We like to read the game and play with what comes to us, and thats why these teams give us trouble because it limits our time to think and react,” commented the coach. Part of his game plan going into Virginia is to be moving around a lot in order to tire the bigger, more physical opponents out.
The second and third round will be a great step up in competition, as the Golden Rams will be facing some of the best in the country. A step up in competition means a step up in level of play. DeRemer says they must play harder and more physical against these teams. “We have to play mistake free rugby,” he said.
Nationals is “way out of my (Deremer’s) thoughts right now” but if they do advance, speed is a big thing West Chester will have to defend.
“We’re all really excited and ready to go to National’s once again,” stated Senior captain Erin Furlong.
All of this comes down to one game though; Virginia Tech. If West Chester is unable to overcome the Hokies on March 21, their hopes for a Final Four trip will have to wait until next season.
Ryan Frisco is a second-year student majoring in Communication studies with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.