6 Pack Club Preview: September 28-29
Women’s DI – Frontier Red River: Austin Valkyries vs Black Ice Rugby
The next game to watch on our list will be a reunion game of sorts where the Denver Black Ice Women’s side will travel down to the Republic of Texas and face-off against the Austin Valkyries. These are both spirited and storied clubs that have provided plenty of rugby talent throughout the years and will be an incredibly competitive match.
Austin Valkyries Captain Brittany McGhee had this to say about the upcoming weekend, “The match against Denver Black Ice will be a new yet familiar experience for the team. While we’ve played them before, it’s been a number of years since we’ve gone head to head against and we have many new players since that last encounter. McGhee stresses the importance of a Valkyrie victory, “This match-up will be important to us for a couple of different reasons: It’s our opening cup match and could be indicative of the energy we carry into the rest of the season and we’ve never beaten them. This time last year, we were slow out of the gates with 2 early losses and nearly missed getting to continue into post season. This season, the clubs focus has been to handle the immediate threat by playing ‘Valks’ ball and not worrying about anything else. With our CR opening up, we have more immediate threats than we’ve historical had, and Black Ice will be the first obstacle we’ll have to overcome.”
Although Captain Brittany McGhee is understanding of last year’s potential woes, she adds, “Thankfully, may of our core players are returning last year and we are hoping to kick off with how we ended things last year. We played some of the best rugby our club has ever seen towards the end, and our plan is to continue playing at that same level in this opening match. Overall, I think it’ll be a good battle.”
Black Ice Rugby Captain Lin Hill has this to state about her team’s energy and hopes moving forward against Austin, “We’re very excited to travel to Austin this weekend! The few times we’ve gone up against them, it’s always been a battle from start to finish. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve played Austin, so we’re not exactly sure what to expect. But that will give us the opportunity to really focus on our game and executing what we’ve been working on. We’ve had the past few weeks to analyze and learn from our match against Glendale earlier in September. Our forwards have put a lot of work on our set pieces and our back line continuity is looking great.”
Men’s DII – Mid-America: Wichita Barbarians at St. Louis Royal Ramblers
If there was a Division 2 ‘royalty’ game, it would certainly be awarded to these Kingly clubs. Brent Zluticky, the Wichita club president had this to mention of the impending matchup, “For the past 5-6 years, our two clubs have been among the premier men’s clubs in their respective divisions across the United States. And within that time frame, there have been 2 national championships won between us, multiple final four appearances, and a handful of Frontier Region championships. This match will be an epic early season test.”
From what it seems on paper, this will be a clash of the titans type of matchup that will surely cause ripple effects throughout their respective seasons, and quite possibly the rest of the conference. Josh West, the Wichita team captain added in, “Playing Saint Louis is a big test for us every year; we reflect and measure ourselves according to this game. Saint Louis always has athletes in the back-line and tough forwards that combine well for a good structure in attack and defense. Our job this weekend is to make sure we are disciplined and know our assignments. We always relish the chance to play the Ramblers—they have a history of winning, yet so do we.”
If there’s anything a rugger would know, would be that last season is gone and that whatever matchup is in front of you will determine the success and embodiment of the club’s culture. Head Coach for the Barbarians, Paul Enegren, has that exact mindset and is excited for his club’s chances against the Ramblers. “This year we have implemented some new offensive philosophies, as well as moving some players to different positions, kind of pushing the envelope, and ready to see the plan in action. The team came back from the summer in great physical shape, and the boys are hungry to go deep into the playoffs this year. With 95% of our players returning, the continuity will be keen enough to give St. Louis a great match.”
On the other side of the field, Colin Heath & Steve Mckinstry, both coaches for the St. Louis Royal Ramblers had this to mention of their club and the upcoming game against the Barbarians. “This weekend’s match up between the newly merged St Louis Royal Rambler RC and the Wichita Barbarians will be our first Division-2 test for our club, following a convincing 43-15 D3 win last weekend against the KC Blues D3.” The coaches continue by stating, “The Royal Ramblers are a merger between the St Louis Ramblers, the second oldest club in the USA, and the St Louis Royals, 2017 National Champions, with the goal of becoming a real rugby force in St Louis. The Royals’ players are familiar with Wichita, having played them 3 times last spring and are very familiar with their strengths across all positions and long bench. The introduction of new players to our D2 squad will hopefully provide the edge we need to turn the tables on Wichita and provide the depth and increased talent pool that was lacking in last year’s match ups.
Men’s DII – Rocky Mountain: Denver Barbarians at Denver Misfits
In the Greater Denver area, there is a great rivalry forming between the Barbarians and Misfits. Both clubs are coming off a successful season over .500 win percentage. The last time these two clubs faced off in 2018, the Barbarians took the victory lap around town after a 50-15 score. This will be the Misfits first time playing in the Rocky Mountain Division 1 after their uptrend from the previous year. Although the Misfits are the “new club on the block”, the Barbarians will have intentions of showing them how the top division shows up. This battle of the Mile High City will also take place at Infinity Park Turf Field, just outside of the MLR Glendale Raptors stadium. The Rocky Mountain opener will include the Barbarians taking the “Home” title, while the Misfits will be aiming to steal the game from under their noses. Expect a large, local, and rowdy crowd to be in full swinging support of their respective team.
Women’s DII – Midwest East: Cincinnati Kelts at Grand Rapids Rugby
Heading into the Midwest, these lionesses will battle for momentum moving into the peak of Autumn and hopeful playoff contention. Cincinnati Kelts president, Nicole “Netti” Yannetti, is particularly excited to see how her club will perform against the Rapids. “[Our] Women’s side have been working hard in the off season to prepare for the 2019-2020 15s season. We have consistently made it to playoffs over the last few years, the farthest being the final 8 in the 2017-2018 season. This match-up means a lot as we don’t know what to expect from Grand Rapids. They are new to our division and we haven’t played them a lot in the last few years. This will be a good test to play someone new and see where we stack up. Every match is a learning experience and we look forward to continuing to improve as the season progresses.”
Concurring on the Grand Rapids side, Captain Madison LaDouce, is also excited with her club’s growth and improvement, along with this awesome weekend matchup. “The Growlers are looking forward to a great match against the Cincinnati Kelts. We know that they are a strong team and we have been working on our defensive game because our offense has been working so well. I’m excited to see what our backline will be able to accomplish this match since they have been working so hard and have been able to pull off some great plays. This should be a great match for our forwards as well.”
LaDouce continues with, “In our last game, the forwards were able to come together and work as a unit, and I am anticipating for this to happen right away at the match on Saturday. Also, we have returning players who are playing positions they have never done before, and this match will be great for them to embrace that new position and really understand it. For this match, we will be having a good amount of leaders on the pitch, such as Molly Magen, Jessica Supplee, and Stephanie Armstrong who will all help our team be successful.”
Men’s DIII – Midwest South: Queen City Rugby at Columbus Castaways
With the ever-growing Midwest competition, the clubs are surely more apt to finish their seasons ahead of their divisional rivals. One of these strong matchus to look forward watching is the Queen City RFC vs. Columbus Castaways. Queen City Captain Jason Tinch is keeping his chin raised high for the upcoming battle. “Coming off of last season where our first match against the Castaways was 57-0, we have a debt we owe ourselves to be more competitive and show that we deserve to be in this league. Since August 2018, we’ve grown the depth of our team through coaching current players and our recruiting ability to be the 4-0 as we stand today. In the Spring of 2019, we made great strides with our team, going 9-3 and placing 4th in the social division of Savannah’s Shamrock rugby tournament, to be where we are this Fall.”
Tinch continues by praising his club’s competition, “This Saturday’s match to us will dictate who will lead the Midwest Men’s D3 South division in the playoffs in November. This will be an incredibly tough match-up for us as we have nothing but respect for the hard-hitting Castaways. However, we have a lot of talent in our back line and pack as we proved just a few weeks ago in delivering the first league loss to Louisville since 2017. This Saturday is a great opportunity to prove to ourselves and the Midwest we are a championship-caliber team. Either way this Saturday will be a nail-biter of a match.”
Castaways President John Wesley chimed in on his club’s plan for the remainder of the season, along with alluding to the fact that one of these clubs will come out with their first loss of the season. “Anytime you have two undefeated teams meeting up in league play there is a ton at stake. Both the Castaways and Queen City want to keep that zero in the loss column and take one step closer to winning the league. We are taking every game one week at a time and this game is no different. The Castaways plan to play good fundamental rugby and work together as a unit. Saturday will be a battle and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Women’s DIII – Mid-Atlantic North: Lehigh Valley Rugby at Wilmington
In a Division 3 clash, Lehigh Valley will travel to Newark, DE to take on Wilmington. Both of these clubs are currently looking to get on the right track to a successful season attempting to eclipse the .500 win/loss ratio. Lehigh is especially looking to rebound after a winless season in 2018/19. Wilmington RFC is beginning their D3 tenure with a matchup that is much needed for momentum moving forward into the season. This new club to the division will be hungry for early success in proving themselves to the conference. Home-field advantage for Wilmington may be the very thing they need to move onto the next week with the wind at their back and hopeful sunshine in their sight.
Melissa Marlin, Wilmington Club’s representative had this to say about her team, their season, and this weekend’s match. “After some friendly matches last fall and spring and a few summer tournaments, the Wilmington Rugby women are excited to enter a new level of competition. We’ve grown a lot over the past year adding both players with previous experience and a lot of women completely new to the sport (many of whom are picking it up fast and showing some real promise on the field).
She continues, “Our match against Lehigh this weekend will be our third match of the season. We been struggling with injuries lately, but we’ve got a solid group of women lined up for Saturday. About half of our line-up has been playing for less than one year, and some have only been playing for a few weeks. What we lack in experience, we make up for in motivation and optimism. Having no previous seasons to compare against, we can really only go up from here. Each game, regardless of the outcome, is a great learning experience for us. We’re ready to take on Lehigh and hopefully start making a name for ourselves.”