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CWU’s Ingold: We’re Rebuilding

  • 10 Feb 2019

Central Washington transitioned from NIRA to USA Rugby’s DI Elite competition this season, although the Wildcats are still counted toward the 40 teams needed for full NCAA championship status. This previous weekend, the team traveled from Ellensburg, Wash., to the Bay Area for a one-off game against Life West, the DI club national champion heading for the Women’s Premier League.

Life West won 83-3, but realistically that scoreline shouldn’t come as a shock. Central Washington left important players at home (USA 15s Performance Squad players Tiana and Tiara A’au, for example), some with injuries, and traveled with 19. Players like Fumie Reyes and Paige Wyatt made the trip but did not dress. The Gladiatrix were missing a couple of players, too – Elizabeth Cairns, Cam Motley among them – but have very good depth, and had also learned a lesson about taking collegiate sides (Lindenwood) lightly.

“Right now, we’re kind of in a rebuilding season, so [the focus is] making sure everyone’s caught up with our system, getting our plays down and becoming one as a team,” Central Washington flyhalf Leah Ingold said of the team’s current state.

Central Washington head coach Trevor Locke reiterated as much, indicating that this recruiting class and next will very important in re-establishing the team.

“Our main goal wasn’t really to come out and win; it was to just come out and play, come out as a unit, because we were throwing around different combinations around on the field,” said Ingold, who also noted that players without a full game’s experience were also getting their shot in Vallejo, Calif.

“Bianca Ortiz-Pallen,” the flyhalf named one teammate who impressed in a different role on Saturday. “In the fall she was playing a little bit of prop, and I know she’s practice at hooker, but right now we’re having her at 8 and the loosies. She’s showing to be a real leader in the forward, really leading them.”

The game itself started off well for Central Washington, as flanker Michel Navarro took the opening kickoff and planted her opposite for a line-break through the middle. The Wildcats laid it on thick those first 10 minutes, attacking inside Life West’s 10 meter with a bunch of vigor. Jaida Kafovalu and Haley Abeyta were also physically impressive, and MaryJane Pasioles did her thing from scrumhalf.

“We really wanted to come out and show that we’re tough,” Ingold reflected on the first 10 minutes. “We hear a lot of great things [about Life West] – they have a lot of USA pool players on their team. We just wanted to come out and show that we’re not necessarily scared of that but we can make our mark on the game.”

But once the Gladiatrix got their first solid line-break – courtesy of wing Sarah Buonopane, who had two tries on the day – Life West didn’t stop. [Stay tuned for Jessica Lewis’ full interview] The senior team moved the ball quickly, connected well on the move, and its dominant scrum and fast-up defense kept Central Washington on its heels. Late in the second half, Ingold slotted a penalty goal to prevent the shutout.

Coach Locke acknowledged the team’s stage of development and pointed to some easy fixes; however, he expressed concern about those players who struggled with contact. Central Washington played a lot of defense, and it was a brutally tough game that saw Sui A’au, Navarro and Life West’s Catie Benson limp off the pitch.

“I’m mainly just hoping to leave the team as a whole, making sure they’re prepared for summer and fall coming up, that they don’t skip a beat during breaks – leaving them with the strong mentality that we’re trying to build right now,” the graduating senior concluded.

Central Washington will continue to build with games against ORSU, Lindenwood and BYU, and hopefully refill the ranks with those rehabbing players in Ellensburg. On March 24, the four DI Elite teams will meet in Greenville, S.C., for the semifinals, and then the championship will occur on April 7 at Stanford University.

To come: Interview with Life West hooker Jessica Lewis and full match report.

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