Steep learning curves for first-time Gaels

Rookie players tested in four preseason matchups against trio of classic opponents as tourney host 

First year Gaels used this round-robin tournament as preparation for the upcoming year.
First year Gaels used this round-robin tournament as preparation for the upcoming year.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The Gaels hosted and faced four tough matchups to kick off their 2015 pre-season.

Ottawa, McGill and Western travelled to Nixon Field to participate in a pre-season round-robin tournament.

In their first match-up against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the Gaels were shut-out 26-0. In their second match-up against the Gee-Gees they performed much better, but the tries scored by Leigha Stiles and Sam Ellis weren’t enough to win, resulting in a 12-10 loss.

On Friday, Queen’s seemed extra motivated to dismantle the 2014 OUA Bronze Medalist Western Mustangs. On the backs of Emma Chown and Lauren Murray — who both scored three tries — they blew out their Old Four rivals 73-10 in the contest.

Kara Gani complemented Chown and Murray’s outstanding play with a try of her own and three conversions.

In their final game against another Old Four rival, the McGill Redmen, both teams played their second string players. With a team of almost all first-year players, the Gaels were unable to find the endzone, losing 41-0.

After the final whistle had blown, the Gaels finished a disappointing 1-3 in their exhibition contests. Despite this record, head coach Beth Barz said there was a silver lining in their play.

“We did not look for perfection today,” Barz said. “We were just looking for little pieces of basics to do well. Today we did a very good job with the basics in both games.”

Throughout the round-robin, it became clear that one of the biggest hurdles the Gaels will face this year is the experience gap between their players and the opposition.

In a roster of 40 people, the Gaels lineup is almost at a dead split of first-years and veteran upper classmen, which is rather unusual at the OUA level.

For the first-year players, Barz believes this pre-season play was vital for their growth. 

“[The first-years] put themselves into some positions that were uncomfortable, or  recognized where they should have been when they weren’t, absolutely.”

“The learning was significant, just asking them after the game, there was a lot of ‘yeah, I know I did this, or didn’t do this’.”

Looking ahead to the season, Barz believes that the pre-season could be one of the defining moments in letting the players gel. 

“It’s that feeling out process, figuring out who is going to carry the ball, who is going to do the dirty work, who is going to kick and who is going to run fast. It all boils down to that during the pre-season.”

Up next for women’s rugby is their regular season opener against the McMaster Marauders on Sept. 13. 

When these two teams met in the 2014 season, the Gaels fell 21-20.

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