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Merlins Select Team for First Match Against Santa Monica in PRP
As told by Head Coach Luke Gross
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 1.24.19, Glendale Rugby’s Third Floor Meeting Room
I’m prepping for our last team meeting and training before we take on Santa Monica in our first Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) match of 2019.
Photo by Justin Purdy
We actually still have a lot to work on and I plan on going over quite a bit in tonight’s practice. However, I have said it before and I will say it again, you are never as prepared as you want to be heading into your first match of the season, and even if I had two more weeks of training with these guys, I’m sure I’d still have more to work on. As a team and individual it’s always good to strive for perfection. Although, of course, we are never perfect, it’s the journey to get there that makes you great.
Our team has a lot of hard working and talented guys, who have braved numerous cold and wet winter nights to come out and give it their all and I’m really proud of this team already. We know the Santa Monica Dolphins will be out to prove themselves early this year. They have a lot of new players on their side and that makes it hard to predict, but as long as we play our game and the team comes together as I know they can, I see good things in the future.
Our goal for this team is not only to win, but to develop several players for the MLR. To keep both of these goals in mind, is a difficult balance. We have essentially combined three different player pools, Raptors players who need some game time, Raptors Academy players who need to develop and our normal DI Men’s side, and we essentially have two training sessions to mesh all of these players together and get them working as a unit. I’m very excited to see what happens.
So with that said, here’s my pick for our Merlins Men’s Team facing off in our first match against Santa Monica, on Saturday, January 26 at 1:30 p.m. (PST) at Comet Stadium 7748 W 91st Street, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293. This roster includes a few notes on where these boys came from and what they bring to the table. And don’t forget to follow all of our Merlins action on our social media pages: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Moses Saole, at age 19, he has been practicing with the Raptors Academy since late summer. Picking up rugby in the eighth grade, he has been primed for this moment by his H.S. coach Amy Rusert, who coached him at the Palmer Terrors. He’s 6’2” and 265 lbs., which gives you an idea of just what kind of muscle he brings to our pack.
- William Lavakeiaho, goes by Ami, he is among the most recent Raptors Academy recruits, sent to us by Rob Holder, Director of Spearhead Rugby Academy. At just 20 years old, Ami was molded by one of the best rugby minds in Minnesota. Holder saw his potential and sent him here with hopes of making the MLR.
- Fehoko Fanaika, goes by Hoko, was a product of the Glendale Merlins Selects camp we held in lead-up to Aspen Ruggerfest. A beast at 6’6 and 300 lbs., Hoko was a product of LSU Football and has now transitioned to rugby after Glendale’s crossover camp. He scored his first try in Aspen and the rest is history!
- C.J. Schoelch, born and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut, this 6’2”, 245 lbs. lock played a little rugby in high school and his freshman year of college, but really got into the game when he moved to Denver in 2015. Rugby’s in his genes, though as his older brother also played rugby for the Boston Rugby Club, back when they played in the Rugby Super League.
- Timothy Adie, at the ripe young age of 18, Adie moved out to Glendale to join our Academy after playing with the Midwest Eagle Impact Rugby Academy. A product of Pike Rugby Club out of Indiana, Adie was also recently named to the Boys H.S. All-American (U-18) side that took on the Canada U-18s this winter.
- Clint Cook, as the second ‘Cookie’ in our Glendale outfit, Clint has made a name for himself as an extremely hard worker, both on and off the field. First stepping on the rugby pitch in 2013 at Colorado Mesa University, he has proven himself one of the most physical and hard-nosed players on this Glendale team, and although he usually plays center, he’s starting as flanker, because of that very reason. Interestingly enough, we can now call him Dr., as he has recently finished his Doctorate of Occupational Therapy.
- Alex Fitch, a Colorado-native, Fitch started playing rugby his senior year of high school. Now, at 24 years old, his hard work and attitude is contagious and is a building block for this team’s success. He’s 5’10, 220, but when he plays, you would swear he’s 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than he actually is. Rugby is also in his blood, as his sister was named a USA Rugby All-American, as well.
- Devin Vaughter, with a full head of curly red locks, Devin is easily recognizable on and off the pitch. But just because he has the best hair on the team, don’t underestimate his grit and determination. He was first invited to play in a men’s match when he was just 16 years old, a sporting experience that changed his life. He’s played summer rugby with Vail RFC since moving out to Colorado in 2012 and has played with Glendale since 2015, even making several appearances for the Raptors in their inaugural season in the MLR. Coincidently, he’s not the only Vaughter who’s gone pro, his father, Eric Vaughter, was a professional goalkeeper in the 80s.
- Tevita Makasini, another product of the Spearhead Rugby Academy, this 23-year-old scrumhalf has grown up throwing a rugby ball and it shows. Moving to the U.S., with his family in 2015, he is determined to continue pushing himself to the next levels of the game, which, of course, is why his coach Rob Holder sent him here to Glendale. He’s got something special.
- Alexander McKenzie, another Raptors Academy recruit, Al came to us straight out of Bath Rugby’s Academy program and is a great representation of the skill level that club produces. At 5’10” and 185 lbs, this 19-year-old already has the look and skills of an MLR flyhalf.
- Zach Rademacher, a member of the Raptors Academy since its inception, Rademacher, at just 20 years old is probably considered one of the veterans of this young Academy program. Born and raised in Spokane, Zach and his younger brother Isaiah consider Glendale their home and other than work, eat, sleep and dream about rugby. Owing to his speed, Zach also plays a mad-7s game, taking a bit of time off from Glendale in the summer to play with the Denver Barbos 7s side.
- Colin Gregory, straight out of Clemson, Colin moved out to Colorado after graduation and played summer rugby with Vail. He caught the eye of David Williams and has been training with the Raptors ever since. Trained by Steve Lynch, Colin is a real team player, with speed and great vision. Also, a great looking moustache.
- Siale Maka, another player who started with the Raptors Academy, Siale was offered an associate contract with the Raptors side, and saw quite a bit of match time this fall proving himself a very powerful runner with great off-load ability. At 6’3”, 225, Siale will be a force in this backline.
- Jermaine Huddleston, came to the Glendale Rugby Club during the Merlins Selects camp earlier this fall. Jermaine came out of Indiana, picking up rugby at age 18, but also making a huge impact at Fishers High School in football. At 5’8”, 200 lbs., this 21-year-old Academy player has proven hands and speed, doing exactly what he needs to on the wing!
- Tyler Myles, having played rugby for almost 10 years already, mostly at flyhalf, Tyler (Smiles) Myles has the experience and skill to move around the backline, as needed and is continuing to prove himself a valuable asset to the Glendale Rugby club. Tyler was another recruit that Director of Rugby Mark Bullock picked up during the Merlins Selects camp, and weirdly enough, the second player we’ve brought in this fall who has played at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Maryland (Raptors Campbell Johnstone, being the first.)
- Justin Oles, at 5’10”, 215 lbs, this 21-year-old Las Vegas native, was last playing for the Las Vegas Irish when he was recruited by Mark Bullock to start playing rugby for our Raptors Academy. His first tournament for Glendale was up in Aspen, where he really showed his merit.
- Scott Smith, at 6’0” 235 lbs, this prop also started playing rugby in college, but just north of Chicago at Lake Forest College. He stayed around Chicago, playing with the Blaze after graduation, but eventually packed up to move back West and has been playing with Glendale ever since.
- Stephen Karas, another local, he started playing rugby at Chapparell High School in 2009. He went on to play at CSU and was a Collegiate All-American his senior year. Steven joined the Glendale side this fall, after returning to Denver following a year abroad, playing rugby in New Zealand.
- Joshua Gihring, another young Colorado Springs native, Josh played four years at Colorado Springs H.S. and then spent the next two years at Point Loma Nazarene University, before heading out to NZ and playing a stint there. He returned in 2018, and started playing with the Glendale Raptors Academy in the spring.
- Trevor Wilder, born and raised in New York, this 25-year-old scrumhalf was actually a two sport athlete in college, swimming and playing rugby at Buffalo State College. He currently makes the commute from Boulder, Colo., to play with the Glendale side.
- Alex Wormer, another player that commits to a lengthy commute to play in Rugby Town, Alex was born in Atlanta, but grew up in Evergreen. He started playing rugby at 12 years old and went on to play PAC Rugby (High School) 2011-2014. He went on to play in college at Cal Poly, before moving back to Colorado for good, making the Glendale Merlins his rugby home.
- Ryan Chavkin, has a similar story to many who grew up in the Denver Metro. He started playing in H.S. at East and then went to college in California, playing rugby for Santa Clara University before moving back to Colorado and making Glendale his home club.
- Tyler Nawrocki, was another player to come out of the Merlins Selects camp held this fall. Rocki has played rugby since he was 13; playing for the Land Park Motley rugby team, in Sacramento. Now over a decade later, he has finally selected Glendale as his team. This all-around athlete also played water polo, wrestled and continues to do a lot of lifting.