Glendale Coaches Corner

Glendale Merlins Rugby

Glendale Merlins Division I Women Continue to Develop, Look to Finish Season on a High Note

by | Apr 24, 2019 | Coaches Corner, D1 Women

Coaches Clinic

PHOTO BY JUSTIN PURDY

I have been a part of the Glendale Rugby community in some capacity – either as a player, coach or referee – for over eight years. This year, however, I was grateful to get the opportunity to be the head coach of the Merlins D1 Women’s team. Fortunately, my excitement for coaching the D1 Women has been equally matched by the player’s passion and commitment throughout the season. The team has been focused and has worked incredibly hard to get to where we are in the season right now, awaiting our first playoff game on the road to Nationals.

Practices started in early February and we have had to endure some pretty diabolical weather conditions throughout the spring to get our practices in. From a bomb cyclone to spring hail to sunny and 70 degrees, the ladies have shown up time and again and put in the hard work needed to be successful. Whether we are on the field or training inside the HATC because of snow and wind, we have been working together and learning a lot, and we are finally in that exciting time of our season to see how all the hard work will pay off.

Quite a few of the Division I women have aspirations to play for our Women’s Premier League (WPL) in the fall. Trying to find the balance of playing good, solid team rugby with being able to challenge players to better themselves is sometimes a hard line for a coach to walk. What is good for an individual might not be the best thing for the team and vice versa.  Often, players are asked to cover multiple positions on the field, and I am lucky enough to have a great group of women who are willing to do whatever is asked to put the team success first.

Our first game of this spring season was against Denver Black Ice and we came away with a win after a fairly equal back-and-forth game. Black Ice put up a couple of quick tries against us early on, but I was really proud of our team’s resilience and grit. We were able to settle into the game, and once we showed some patience with our attack and worked our tails off on defense, the scoreline started to even out.  The final ended up being 31-27 with a great kick from our flyhalf Hannah Tennant to put the game out of reach at the end, and the Merlins started the season with a victory.

photo by seth mcconnell

But competition is hard to come by in the Rocky Mountain region. With such a limited number of women’s teams in the area, the team decided that they wanted to get some more game time this spring and traveled to Chicago to play a friendly match against fellow WPL side Chicago North Shore. Furthermore, being social with other teams is an important part of the ethos of rugby and we were able to enjoy that while also playing a hard fought match against a tough opponent.  Another Merlins victory, this time putting up 44 points to their 17, against a mixed D1-WPL side from North Shore, gave the team a shot of confidence and a good focus before we faced Utah.

As always, we knew that playing Utah was going to be a tough physical challenge for us, and it took us awhile as a team to really commit to our game plan.  Eventually, we were able to settle in, put some tries on the board and play some really strong and physical team rugby.  Unfortunately, the outcome left us with a loss in the end, but I believe the insight we gained from that game will give us infinitely more direction and focus going forward into playoffs.

The goal of our practices this season have been staying fit, focused and having fun, and all of those things played an integral role in our team dynamics throughout the season. One of the most challenging aspects of the DI Merlins team is working with athletes with all levels of experience. You get some who are just coming into the game of rugby and learning it for the first time, which means creating a learning environment that is interesting and enjoyable, while also challenging veteran players and providing them with competitive situations and opportunities for growth. It can sometimes prove a major challenge. But the wonderful thing about the game of rugby is that we can all still learn and grow, no matter the age or experience level, and I look forward to each day with this group of women.  They are really finding their identity as a team and I am incredibly lucky to be able to work with each and every one of them.

But, don’t just take my word for it, come and check out this Merlins team for yourself. Our next match is scheduled to kick off on April 27th at 3 p.m. directly after the Glendale Men’s DI match at Glendale’s Infinity Park turf pitch. This will be the first match of the Frontier Conference playoffs and the winner will advance to play the Utah Vipers in the Frontier Conference Women’s DI Championships in Glendale on May 4. It should be noted that we lost in this first round of the playoffs last year, and that experience was something that none of these women want to duplicate. So, expect us to bring it all to the table on Saturday as we play our local rival, Black Ice.

Merlins Women D1 vs Denver Black Ice

43 - 12
Women's Division I

Glendale Merlins vs Utah Vipers

27 - 53
Women's Division I

Glendale Merlins vs Black Ice Rugby

31 - 27
Women's Division I

Glendale Merlins vs Utah Vipers

36 - 49
Women's Division I
 - Infinity Park Turf Field

Round 1 Frontier Conference Playoffs - Glendale Merlins vs Denver Black Ice

25 - 19
Women's Division I
 - Infinity Park Turf Field

Frontier Conference Championship - Glendale Merlins vs Utah Vipers

34 - 29
Women's Division I
 - Infinity Park Turf Field

Rugby Coaching Clinic May 3-5, 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019

6 pm – Meet and greet with the Glendale Raptors, Dinner & Presentation: “Practice Planning” (Mark Bullock, Raptors Director of Rugby)

Saturday, May 4, 2019

9 am – Attack Pattern: The 1-3-1 (David Williams, Raptors Head Coach)

10 am – Break

10:10 am – Set Play: Lineout (Pete Borlase, Raptors Forwards Coach)

11:00 am – Ball Skills/Decision-Making (Mark Bullock, Raptors Director of Rugby)

11:50 am – Lunch (catered)

12:30 pm – Set Play; Scrum (Jamie Burke, All-World Prop, Merlin’s WPL & USA Women Forwards Coach)

1:30 pm – The Tackle (Rex Norris, Atavus & Kent Crusaders)

3:00 pm – Break

3:10 pm – Tackle Contest (Jamie Burke, All-World Prop, Merlin’s WPL & USA Women Forwards Coach)

4:00 pm – Defensive Systems (Mark Bullock, Director of Rugby)

4:50 pm – Prep for Major League Rugby Match

5:15 pm – Break for Dinner (on own)

7:00pm – Glendale Raptors vs. Utah Warriors (sitting in reserved coaches’ clinic area)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

9:00-10:30 am – Match Review (Led by Travis Haugen, Raptors Performance Video Analyst)