Leadership and learning link Laker rugby

Nick DeMaagd

The long and arduous road to achieving ambitious goals is paved with blood, sweat and tears. When it comes to giving their all, the members of the Grand Valley State University women’s club rugby team rarely fall short.

The Lakers, who are 2-2 on the season, are looking to close out with a win in the final game of the regular 15-player campaign. GVSU has found a recipe for success – utilizing veteran and rookie players, playing harder and changing up the coaching staff.

“The seniors have really stepped up this year and it’s been great to see them all being leaders,” senior Taylor Carpenter said.

With a plethora of returning players this season, it has been up to the seniors to lead the young guns on the field. For rookie players, there have been some obstacles. Learning how to play and making the right calls in a game comes with experience and serves as a steep learning curve for new talent.

Leadership among the veterans, however, has made all the difference for the newer players. They have also found guidance, in part, due to increased practice times and the coaching staff this season.

Senior Amy Jedele said new assistant coach Emma Pesci has been wildly beneficial in teaching the rookies the fundamentals and helping them develop in hopes of reaching the level the veterans play at. Pesci, a GVSU alumna and former player, touts five years of experience and a strong knowledge of teamwork.

“She has really helped teach new players the basic skills they need and has incorporated them into our lineup,” Jedele said.

The Lakers also added extra practices prior to the start of the season, including more intense sessions and live drills. Staying focused and working hard has been a top priority for coach Abe Cohen.

“Practices have been much more physical and the intensity has definitely gone up,” Cohen said. “They’ve been grinding it out this year with true grit and determination.”

Leading by example, the veteran players have made it their goal to be better than last year. In an effort to make the young players feel like they belong, the veterans have spent more time having the team interact and bond both on and off the pitch.

With the regular season concluding following this weekend’s game, the seniors have worked on ways to help the new players after the veterans leave.

“We want rookies to keep in mind that we have a bond like no other,” Jedele said. “Being friends on and off the pitch is always important.”

The Lakers square off against Saginaw Valley State University at noon on Sunday.