Rugby returns after week off

The Eastern women’s rugby team will be back in action this weekend when it will hit the road for the first time this season. The Panthers will travel north to Champaign to take on the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.

The Panthers have not been in action since hosting the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the first ever NCAA Division-I women’s rugby game on Sept. 18.

The Panthers were set to take on the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend, but because of traveling conflicts, the game to was rescheduled for Nov. 12.

The two-week break from game play was used to fine-tune the little things and work on the general parts of rugby to prepare for this weekend and the remainder of the season.

“We had a good week of practice and I think the girls feel better about themselves,” Graziano said. “I think that gave us a mental break about just thinking about beating someone every weekend. This was perfect for us.”

Eastern will kick off the road portion of its schedule this weekend against the Fighting Illini. The Panthers have had substantial success against the Illini throughout the years, and head coach Graziano looks for more of the same this weekend.

“I want to see how well our timing is,” Graziano said. “If the timing on our offensive plays works well then we can put up a lot of points.”

He said the team has performed well in practice this week.

The Panthers are 4-0 against the Illini since 2007, including a 96-0 win last year in Champaign. The Panthers will look to repeat that result again this weekend.

Despite the Panthers’ 3-0 record, they have had trouble putting a large number of points on the scoreboard this season and Graziano said they will look to change that on Saturday. “Our game plan is to implement everything we have been doing the past two weeks,” he said.

Senior flyhalf Tine Crema agreed, saying the team needs to play at a tougher level.

“We want to play harder and get in the game and get going instead of playing down to our opponents level,” Crema said. “We want to strengthen our offense and score big this weekend.”

Crema said a key for the team is to start the game off on the right foot.

“It’s really important that we get off to a good start,” she said. “We have been a little slow starting off this season, and we really want to use this game to build some momentum for the rest of the season.”

The team’s captain said she feels confident in the team’s chances over its rival.

“I’m pretty confident that we will get the win. We have had great success against them in the past and it’s kind of like a hometown rivalry since we are so close to them,” senior Narissa Ramirez said.

Kickoff between the Panthers and the Fighting Illini is slated for noon on Saturday.

Jordan Pottorff can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].