As far as they know, players on the BYU women’s rugby team have earned their spot in the Collegiate Women’s Rugby Sweet 16. All the players can do now is wait and prepare to show the nation they belong there.
One aspect of the Cougars’ preparation for the last few games, and throughout the winter season, is to give significant playing time to the second team. The last few weeks the Cougars had four starters suffer injuries, resulting in second team players stepping up to the plate.
“We have a pretty solid second string,” senior co-captain Samantha Wright said. “In the past we have had the problem of not having strength of subs. The last couple of games the second string is going to play, so in the future if there are any injuries or other needs the second string is ready to go.”
Last week against Colorado University, Wright filled one such need when senior scrumhalf Chelsie Hill left the game due to injury. Though Wright was already a starter, scrumhalf was a position she had never played, but she switched positions when the team needed help. Captains and coaches expect the second string to perform in a like manner.
“We are going to continue to practice and improve the second string,” senior Kristi Jackson said. “If any of the first string gets hurt, the second team needs to step up.”
The second team is set to start this weekend against Utah State. The last time these two teams met, BYU dominated 80-3. According to Nalia Tafua, a sophomore from Laie, Hawaii, and a leader on the second team, the Cougars still have expectations to meet.
“We still have to have our expectations high,” she said. “We have a goal to win, but there will be more competition because we haven’t had a ton of experience playing together as second string starters. We are all really excited.”
Another weakness the Cougars have struggled with is the strength of their schedule during the regular season. In order to prepare for the Sweet 16, the Cougars plan to attend additional tournaments and schedule games with tougher teams against similar abilities they will face during the national tournament. Because the national tournament does not take place until late April, the team has six months to rise to the challenge.
“We are trying to contact other teams to set up more difficult games,” Wright said. “We are going to Vegas and are trying to get some California teams to meet us there that will hopefully test us.”
BYU’s match up against Utah State is Saturday morning at 11 at Fort Utah Park.