Emilie Medland-Marchen, September 17, 2015 —
Fresh off a tough preseason conditioning camp, the Dinos women’s rugby team is back in action and looking forward to showcasing their new, more aggressive approach in 2015.
This season, the Dinos will field a team with more rookies than veterans — which means they’ll have to work hard early on to establish a team identity. Head coach Simon Chi is up to that challenge.
“We have a different mix of players. We’re going to have to basically adjust our gameplay. We’re going to have to adjust our combinations. But you know, in all the years with the lessons we’ve learned, we just have a different area of focus,” Chi said.
The team has been training hard since their conditioning camp a few weeks ago. The focus has been on improving their contact and hits in the scrum — skills that are vital in an aggressive sport like rugby. A large portion of the team’s recent practices have focused on getting used to this increased contact.
“It’s the only way to be comfortable in that scenario,” Chi said. “Going back to my playing days, you know you’re going to get smashed around a bit. But at the same time, the more you do it, the more you get comfortable with it. And that’s how you build that toughness, that hardness you’re looking for.”
These women seem ready for that challenge. Strong, steady and aggressive, they are ferocious in their style of play and train hard in their practices. But in order to bring that unified relentlessness to the field, coordinating their strength will be crucial.
Returning player DaLeaka Menin is looking to fill a leadership role for the team this season.
Menin was named an All-Canadian last year as a member of Rugby Canada’s U-20 program. Over the summer, she played on Rugby Canada’s senior team in the Women’s Rugby Super Series throughout Alberta. Her experience with the national team should allow her to thrive as one of the Dinos’ leaders, but despite her successes as an individual, her drive to win as a Dino is still palpable.
“We’ve been so close the past few years to reaching our goals. But we find that we start a bit slow,” Menin said. “So just being able to get on the field, to start and continue the momentum to the end of the game — so we can hold the game or just get closer and closer — is sort of what we want to improve on. And through our new focus, we’ll be able to get there.”
Menin’s confidence is shared by fellow returning player Emily Tuttosi — one of three Dinos women named to the Canadian U-20 team while competing for the Can-Am title in August. Like her coach, she wants the team to focus on physical contact this season.
“In the past we haven’t been the more physical team,” Tuttosi said. “So this year, if we’re all on the same page, hitting hard, moving as one, I think we’re going to experience the success we’ve been lacking the past few years.”
With this new approach and a determined group looking to challenge for the Canada West crown, the Dinos are looking ahead to the first match of the season on Sept. 20. Coach Chi noted that the familiarity with the Dinos’ rivals leaves room for strategic adjustment.
“I’ve worked with the coaches on other teams so I know their styles. At the same time, they know ours,” said Chi. “There’s a lot of familiarity within the entire group. It’s going to be a matter of recognizing their strengths, building our own and attacking them with what we have.”
The Dinos open their season with a match against the University of Alberta Pandas — who eliminated U of C from the playoffs last season — at U of C’s Field 7 on Sept. 20 at 2 p.m.