Panthers looks to avenge loss on 2010 season opener

The premier team in NCAA Division-1 women’s rugby will kick off its season on Saturday afternoon against the Grand Valley State Lakers. The Panthers are looking to start the season off on a high note, as they will look to avenge their lone loss of the 2010 season.

The Panthers completed a rigorous preseason training camp and have battled through two very tough weeks of practice to prepare for Grand Valley State and the 2011 season.

“Starting on Tuesday, we stopped our general rugby play and just focused on the Grand Valley game plan,” said Frank Graziano, Eastern head coach.

“They are very well coached and they play the game very well. They are an experienced squad, and their coach is going to give us a hard time. He is very creative and will come up with a game plan that will give us trouble.”

To prepare for Grand Valley and their unique style of play, Graziano has been watching game film and has developed a strategy that will capitalize on the weaknesses that he sees in the Lakers.

“We have had two and a half good weeks of practice, we are enthusiastic and we certainly want to play better this year than we did last year,” Graziano said.

The Panthers have spent the past week getting everyone on the team up to game speed.

“We are constantly going to be working on the game plan. I give them a sheet each day that highlights the tendencies that Grand Valley does. I’m making sure I don’t get too complicated this weekend. I have taken half the plays in the playbook and said, ‘they’re out,'” Graziano said.

Graziano said he wants to feel confident about his game plan against Grand Valley State, especially with the amount of new players on his roster.

“There is only so much the newcomers can remember and I want to go in with a game plan that I feel confident about. There are going to be first game mistakes and if we capitalize on those mistakes I think we have a great chance.”

Grand Valley State is the only team that has achieved any form of success against Graziano’s team. The Lakers upset the Panthers in last year’s meeting by a score of 17-5. The loss ended a 29 game winning streak that dated back to 2007.

“It’s going to be a tough game. A lot of the preparation for this game is mental since they are the only team that has beaten us in the last three years,” said Narissa Ramirez, senior scrum-half and team captain.

Junior wing Kayla Heal has never lost to any team accept Grand Valley State, and this weekend she will be looking to even the score.

“For me, it’s personal. They are the only team I have ever lost to, and I really want to beat them. It would kill me to lose to them twice,” Heal said.

“We are very confident in what we can do. We have attitude and we are taking practice very seriously. We are going to be ready for this weekend.”

Jordan Pottorff can be reached at 581-7944

or [email protected].