Posted on: February 8, 2018
Its match on! For the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack’s newest team. The women’s rugby sevens are off to Abbotsford for a seven school Canada West tournament this coming weekend (February 10-11).
The event is the second of three events being held in the spring season and the first ever for the WolfPack, who are joining the league on a one year trial.
TRU’s team is being coached by Derek Pue.
Pue has had his crew training three times a week for over a month now. “Our core players are also members of the Kamloops Raiders club team. They are already getting a lot of that skill work. We are just trying to get tempo and conditioning up. We know that we won’t have the chemistry and experience that the other teams have. They have been going for years now at UVIC. They have a strong program. We are going to try and match them with the intensity, the speed and the conditioning. I think we can challenge them.
The WolfPack coach feels his team’s workouts have gone well and was pleased the girls have committed to three early morning sessions. “We feel good about our progress. With our short preparation window, we haven’t had much time to get game experience so it’s been about building our connections, our conditioning and bringing the girls together.”
He adds: “We have a group of strong physical girls that work extremely hard and bring a great energy to the game. That attitude is contagious and we are looking forward to the girls applying it on the field.”
Pue is assisted by his wife, USPORTS All-Canadian Jesse Olynyk, and Kaitlin Cumming, who is playing elite level rugby seven’s right now. “Both these girls have had experience at the collegiate level. They will help our player’s transition from club to a varsity athlete.”
Both assistant coaches are former UVIC players. Olynyk feels that the gap between the WolfPack and the established teams won’t be as vast as some believe. “Rugby BC has provided a lot of added instruction to our girls over the past few years. I think we will be able to hold our own. As a goal, we are hoping to battle with UFV (University of the Fraser Valley) which is also a new program. That will be our main competitor and a bar to see where we fit in. Established programs like Lethbridge and UVIC, will be tough but we will do our best to compete.”
UVIC won the spring’s first exhibition tournament last month in Edmonton, Alberta going unbeaten. Pue says all of the teams they face this weekend will be strong. “This is a big step for us but it is incredibly exciting for the girls and the University. We have set our standard as a group and we want to keep it up through both days.”
Olynyk adds that getting ‘match time’ will be the biggest obstacle for the young ‘Pack to overcome. “Skills and conditioning can be worked on, it is the actual game time as a unit which is the biggest thing we don’t have.”
When they hit the field for the first time on Saturday, the coaching staff believes their side will be ready. “ I think it will be a very proud moment for these girls, “states the head coach. “ To step up to the university level against some of the best athletes in the country is going to bring some nerves but it’s about embracing the occasion and using that energy. We think we are prepared and now, we just want the girls to enjoy this first event and express themselves on the field.”
Looking to the future, the WolfPack coaches believe the potential is there.
“We have some talented athletes playing rugby right now,” says Pue and we have some talented athletes coming up so the future is bright.”
“We hope that TRU does go ahead with this program on a long term basis,’ Olynyk adds. “Coming to TRU will be a great way for not only players in Kamloops but any young women living East of Hope to go. We have had some great players come out of the North (Houston, Vanderhoof, and Prince George). For those players to go to the coast is a long way to travel. If these girls can come to Kamloops and get an education and continue to play the sport they love, It’s a great transition. Playing high level rugby here (at TRU) will get them seen by those elite programs (referring to Rugby BC and Rugby Canada).”
The other tournament the WolfPack will be attending will be held later this month hosted by the University of Victoria.
OF NOTE: The schedule for the WolfPack this weekend is they will face on Saturday (Feb 10): host UFV at 9 am, UVIC at 11:30 am, UBC at 12:45 pm and Lethbridge at 2 pm. Sunday’s matches (Feb 11) have TRU against Alberta at 9:25 am and closing out at 12:20 against Calgary.