Friday, December 4, 2015

OWU Sealed Season of Improvement with Semi-Finals Appearances

It is rare for any rugby team to reach the Final Four during its competitive season. It is even rarer for a men and women’s team from the same college to do so in the same year. The teams of Ohio Wesleyan University achieved that feat in the fall, all in the pursuit of improvement.

According to Director of Rugby John English, he and his coaching staff wanted to take last year’s fall result and out do it. Along with Men’s Coach Cody Albright, Women’s Coach Josh Logenbaker and Pack Coach Pat Bowling, English had to take a group of largely unschooled student-athletes, teach them the sport of rugby and allow them to be competitive.

“A lot of our players had no rugby knowledge when they came out to the program,” English said. “They are getting in good training sessions; they are committed to getting better; individual skills are improving and they are starting to get a better grasp of the offensive system. Our veteran players are getting more confident and that helps out the younger players too.”

The OWU teams weren’t entirely comprised of new players, though the women had more new blood than the men. According to English, about 70 per cent of his men had experience under their belts, while 70 per cent of his ladies were brand new. Regardless of the ratio, the veterans on each team stepped up to act as leaders and help the new players along. Carlos Jackson and Robyn Madrishin were two of the primary positive forces on the men’s and women’s teams, respectively. Both were juniors and captains of their sides.

This fall was the current staff’s second year together; and with the women taking all seven regular season matches and the men coughing up only a single loss the progress has been made. The men made it to the Final Four of the Great Lakes division, while the women’s season ended in the Final Four of the Ohio Valley division. Both teams lost in their respective semi-final matches. The women were upended by Findlay, who were then beaten by Denison.

Throughout the season, the OWU Coaching Staff worked with what was presented, and did so to great effect. On offense, players took what gaps were presented and took advantage of overloads at every opportunity. One of the soccer converts made good use of the boot, using kicks to bury teams in their defensive ends or send points sailing through the posts. On defense, English and his staff had to remind players not to swarm ball carriers; but once that was achieved defenders came began to pressure other teams as a single, solid unit.

“Our biggest improvement on both teams was communication,” English said. “To hear them talking to each other, makes me think they are learning and seeing what's in front of them.”

Now that the season is over, English, Albright, Logenbaker and Bowling turn the team’s focus towards the future. While the teams had success in the fall and made inroads into the postseason, there are still areas that need to be addressed.

“The biggest hurdle right now is getting more students involved in the sport of rugby.” English said. “We are being noticed on campus and that is helping spark interest, but still numbers are too low. We lack quality depth, which hurts later in the season. As a coaching staff, we will just continue to work hard on developing individual skills, strength and conditioning as well as patterns of play, both offensively and defensively. The players we do have out - both men and women - want to work hard to improve and be successful.”

As far as competition is concerned, the OWU men and women have eyes on the national spotlight. Both will be traveling to tournaments around the country to compete. All this will be on top of hosting the club’s Middleton Hopps Sevens Tournament late in the spring.

2 comments:

  1. The women's rugby team made the National spotlight last year and I am sure the veterans on the team, like Miranda Wilde, want more!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The women's rugby team made the National spotlight last year and I am sure the veterans on the team, like Miranda Wilde, want more!!

    ReplyDelete