Rugby team prepares for unfamiliar opponent

Bob Reynolds, Staff Reporter

The Eastern rugby team takes on Life University at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Marietta, Ga.

Last time out, the Panthers picked up their first win of the season over the Tennessee Volunteers 31-17. The Panthers had five different players pick up trys in that game, including three in the first half all by newcomers. In the second half of the Panthers’ win, Kaitlyn Hammock and Carissa Burge picked up trys to seal the victory.

Hannah Vieth converted 3-of-5 two-point kick conversions for her best kicking percentage in a game this season.

On the season, Vieth is 3-of-8 on kick conversions and made her only attempt at a penalty kick.

Graziano said he expects Life to be at the same level as the Wisconsin All-Stars, the team who the Panthers lost to 64-6 in the first game of the season.

“From a talent and understanding of the game, they are definitely going to be at that level,” he said. “I do not know that much about them. They are a lot further along than we have anticipated. Some of their scores have been pretty impressive where they have been up into the 70’s. They have obviously figured it out already and we need to play our best game of the year.”

Of the Panthers first three games, each game they have scored more points than the previous game. The first game they scored five, then 24, then 31 and Graziano said the team has made some nice progress over that time span.

“We are making nice progress from an individual standpoint,” he said. “We just have not put the entire team package together yet. We are optimistic that is going to show up on Saturday.”

One of those newcomers that scored in the Tennessee game was Deairelle Ivy, who scored her first try of the season. In the game against Tennessee, Graziano said that was the first time he gave Ivy the ball to create some offense, and it paid off.

“We have plans to give her the ball a lot more,” he said. “We think she is incredibly difficult to tackle. She had a great practice on Tuesday, where nobody wanted to tackle her.”

Graziano said one of his keys to victory on Saturday is to play his fringe defense a lot better than they did against Tennessee.

“Because Life is scoring so many points, that means they are playing a wide-open athletic running style,” he said. “We are definitely going to have to tackle better in the open field than we did against Tennessee and we have to capitalize on the mistakes that are made.”

The confidence is riding high with the Panthers heading into the game, due to the fact that they got their first win against Tennessee.

“You’ve got to believe what you are doing out their works,” he said. “The only way to prove it to yourself is by getting a win. We can certainly look at our flaws on the video, but we did some good things we have to continue to build upon. We will be able to tell in the first 15 or 20 minutes where that will be.”

Injury notes

From a health standpoint, all the Panthers are going to play in the game, besides Katlyn Gibson, who was injured on a non-contact play when she dove across the goal-line and scored the Panthers first try last Saturday and was carted off the field with a knee injury.

Graziano said Gibson’s MRI will be on Monday to determine what the injury is, but he feels optimistic it is nothing serious due to what he and the athletic trainers seen on the film.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]