Davenport sharpening up in California. /// Photo courtesy Davenport Women’s Rugby
Teams are arriving in California for the collegiate championships on Saturday, but Davenport University has been in the Bay Area since Tuesday night. This trip to the national championship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the DII team, and for more reasons than one.
“I wanted the kids to experience California. Maybe only one or two have been here before,” said Davenport coach Greg Teliczan, a California native. “This afternoon we’re going to the John Muir forest. Most of them have never seen the Pacific Ocean. They can’t wait to see the Golden Gate Bridge. If we were to come out on a Thursday or Friday, our plane leaves Sunday morning, they wouldn’t have a chance to do that stuff.
“Our athletic director and the school, they promote that,” the coach continued. “It’s not just: Go there, play rugby – golf, tennis, whatever it is – and come home. They ask you to show them something different; let them enjoy the trip.”
That’s not to say that rugby is taking a back seat to sightseeing. The Panthers have held two training sessions already, and will run through two lighter sessions on Friday in Concord, where the teams are based.
“Both practices, everyone was focused. So they seem to be ready,” Teliczan said. “They’re pretty positive, little nit-picking here and there, but you’re going to get that.”
However, that hasn’t been the case all season. While Davenport has posted some impressive results against senior clubs and DI colleges this spring, the team has taken its knocks.
“We’ve been pretty beat up. Most of the spring, we only had 16 kids,” Teliczan referenced multiple season-tampering injuries. “It’s been tough. We try to play everybody as much as we can, but a lot of players are getting more playing time than they would have normally. But that helps, too, because they’re getting a lot more experience. It’s good and bad at the same time.”
The Panthers have three reserves this weekend, and they’re without fullback Catie O’Connor and center/wing Melissa Francis due to injury. Junior scrumhalf Maddy Teliczan is playing, but she’s recovering from ALC surgery and a hip labral tear, limiting her attacking capabilities.
Flanker Makala Ferguson moved to inside center and is bookended by Ashlee Byrge at flyhalf and Danielle Ordway at outside center. So while Francis’ absence is a blow, there’s a nice 10-12-13 combination in play. The pack will miss Ferguson’s influence, as a call-up and some position moves were necessitated.
“Once the scrum or lineout is over, it’s just rugby,” Teliczan wasn’t concerned about the position swaps. “They’ll be fine.”
With a day-and-a-half to go before kickoff against the University of Southern California, the energy is starting to build as Panthers supporters arrive in town.
“We have quite a few supporters – grandparents, parents, friends – it’s really neat,” Teliczan said. “We go to Atlanta, Georgia, and they’ll be there. Nashville or South Carolina and now California, and they’re here. I can’t believe it.”
The Davenport and USC fan bases will set the tone for the day, as the DII final occurs at 9 a.m. PDT at Saint Mary’s College.