Wildcats host west pool of women’s rugby playoffs

McKenzie Lakey/Observer

McKenzie Lakey/Observer

Ryan Kinker, Staff Reporter

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A new challenger awaits the Central Washington University women’s rugby team.

Tomorrow, the University of New Mexico Lobos are set to take on the Wildcats at 2 p.m. in the opening round of the playoffs.

This is the first season of a new system to determine the women’s rugby 15s championship bracket, which has been named the Women’s Division I Elite Playoff. This system ensures that the top-eight teams in the country are pitted against each other to ensure a high level of play.

“They created the elite division to provide more opportunity for teams to play into the championship,” said head coach Mel Denham. “It’s a good buildup for us to play more competitive games.”

The selected eight teams are split into two pools of four, with a host for each pool. The victorious team of both pools will face off in the championship game.

Central, which is undefeated in 15s play, has been selected to host the west pool. Pennsylvania State University, which won last year’s championship in a game against Central, will host the east pool playing against the University of Indiana.

Stanford University and Brigham Young University join New Mexico and Central in the west pool, and Lindenwood University and Life University join Penn State and Indiana in the east.

Stanford and BYU are teams that Central is very familiar with, with two victories over BYU this year, and a win over both teams last season. Those two will play at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

New Mexico is a team that Central has not played, but is a challenge the team is ready to face.

“One thing we have been working on this year is being able to adjust to what’s in front of us,” Denham said. “We saw a couple unknowns up in Canada in some 7s tournaments. It’s an exciting thing to play an unknown team.”

Sophomore 8-man Jennifer Johnson said that the focus needs to be on the strengths of Central and not on capitalizing on New Mexico’s game.

“We really focus on playing our game, playing our pattern no matter who the competition is,” Johnson said. “We don’t worry about them too much.”

Carrie Vaillancourt, junior lock, expressed the excitement the team has towards playing the first two rounds at home in Ellensburg.

“It’s awesome,” Vaillancourt said. “It’s such an honor to have [the games] on our own field.”

No matter the outcome of the opening matchup against New Mexico, the Wildcats will play another match against a team from the BYU and Stanford match. The losers of the games will participate in a match to determine the third and fourth place finishers of the west pool Saturday at noon. The winners will also play on Saturday, after the third-place game.

With two matches in a weekend in order to get to the championship game, junior flanker Rosa Pena keeps the mentality of the team simple.

“We’re gonna give Ellensburg a show,” she said. “Real rugby over here.”

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Wildcats host west pool of women’s rugby playoffs