After two full weeks of testing, training and team building, the 2013-2014 Wake Forest Rugby season is finally underway! In a year that marks the 40th anniversary since the team’s origin, there are plenty of other reasons to celebrate. Catching the most attention this summer is the introduction of new head coach, Justin Goonan.
Before firmly planting himself on campus, Coach Goonan welcomed new and returning faces into the squad with a preseason camp that included skills sessions, performance tests and team-building exercises. The extra time together before starting classes proved to be greatly beneficial as the players outlined their goals for the season as well as for the program. Also bringing excitement will be the new competition structure being introduced by the Atlantic Coast Rugby League. Beginning this fall, the conference will host the XV's competition in the fall, while reserving the spring as a strictly Sevens period. As the new Olympic sport gains more and more interest and support, Wake Forest, along with its other conference members, is very excited for the innovative competition structure and aims to compete very heavily in both seasons.
Of course, even more exciting than the conference news is the new addition of the freshmen who are ready for their college rugby debut. In the forwards, Mark Bernstein (Greenwich High) and Tim Peterson (Fairfield Prep) have put their high school rivalry aside and are ready to team up to make an impact at the college level. Joining the young forwards are a class of backs that are ready to test their skills and pace with a veteran backline that returns 7 players with first-side experience. Mitch D'Eramo (Fairfield Prep), Austin Cunningham (Union County) and Miguel Abella (Phillipines U-19) are making a statement to earn their starting jersey and become a threat to opposing defenses. Wake Forest Rugby welcomes this class of freshmen as well as a number of other former high school athletes that have joined the team as newcomers to rugby.
Yesterday, Wake Forest Rugby made its first step into the new era during a round robin scrimmage in Raleigh, NC hosted by NC State. Wake faced off against former NCRU D2 rival ECU and UNC-Wilmington, a familiar opponent from recent seasons. The first match up with ECU was a picture perfect start to the season highlighting some amazing skill and athleticism from senior players. With a final score of 47-5, multiple Deacons found their way into the try zone while the entire squad began to implement new attack and defense strategies that were introduced during preseason training.
In the second runout of the day against UNC-W, many of the newcomers received their first taste of the speed and physicality of match-level rugby. Though the scoreline was not in the Deacons’ favor, the experience was still very productive and beneficial in giving new players the opportunity test their skill levels and understand the flow of an actual game.
Now shifting its attention to the conference season opener this Saturday against the University of Virginia, the squad is focused on recovery and mentally concentrating on improving from yesterday's performance. The season home opener is scheduled to kick off at 2:00pm Saturday on campus at Poteat Field. All are welcome to come out and support the Demon Deacons!