The women and men’s rugby teams set its sights on making the playoffs this year.
Women’s rugby coach Owen Jones left the end of last season with one request for his team: recruit. The women’s rugby club did just that.
“Whatever they did has paid off,” Jones said. “We have roughly 45 players on the team, more than I’ve ever seen come out.”
The women’s team had some adjustments at the start of the season. Its conference, the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union, expanded at the start of the fall by inviting the former Division-I school, Delaware. But, the girls were not fazed. The Owls defeated the Blue Hens 12-5 early in the season.
That win wasn’t the biggest accomplishment this season, Jones said.
“The very encouraging thing about this season is the rate at which the new players are learning the game,” Jones said. “In three games already this season, 12 rookie girls have received ‘A-side’ playing time.”
Some standouts thus far are senior backs and forward captains Rachel Bandura and Kayleigh Dymond. The pair has embraced the role as leaders of the team, Jones said.
When it comes to his teams’ progress so far, as well as his hopes for play-off success, Jones knows that they must focus on each game individually.
“If we make a goal that isn’t attainable for a long period of time, we will lose focus on each step necessary to reach that one goal,” Jones said. “We have a series of goals we set throughout the year building upon one another.”
The Owls have two games left before the playoffs. Jones said that if they make the postseason then new goals will be set and depending on how well the girls do in the playoffs will depend how they address the spring season.
One would think a win to start out the first week of the season and expectations for making the playoffs for the third year in a row would be enough to make a team feel jolted to begin a new season. This wasn’t the case with the men’s rugby squad.
“We were sluggish to start the season,” Club President Matthew Violette said. “Even though we won that first week, the energy just wasn’t there.”
The Owls then had to take on the Raiders of Shippensburg. For the second consecutive week, the Owls came out stale and looked to be repeating the past week’s mistakes. The final was a 5-5 tie and the attitude after the game was morbid.
“At this point we knew we weren’t playing up to our expectations,” Violette said.
The club worked with a new attitude throughout the week and traveled to Happy Valley to take on Penn State this past Saturday with high expectations. The practice (and newfound attitude) showed in the game as the Owls challenged the Nittany Lions for a full 80 minutes. The result was a 37-30 loss but the signs were there. This was a different team then two weeks prior.
“We played, by far, the best game all season,” Violette said. “We’re disappointed with the loss but we seem to have a new focus, which is encouraging.”
The Owls have had to fill two starting roles at hooker and loose head prop that were previously held by seniors for the last three years. Junior prop Jordan Holbert, senior prop/hooker Neil Tierney and sophomore hooker Colin McTamany have all helped to fill the gap. Sophomore Brad Volm was having an outstanding season, showing signs of hard running and even harder tackling. Temple, however, will have to finish the season without Volm as he suffered a broken leg at the Penn State game.
The men’s team will finish out the season in hopes of making it to the EPRU playoffs for a third year in a row, while also keeping this new found winning demeanor a constant heading into the last weeks of the regular season.
Maxwell Reil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.