Lopes landing star players despite COVID-19 challenges
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Bringing in talented recruits during a normal year is difficult for any college athletic program. Landing new players in the face of a global pandemic is a challenge even the most seasoned coaches around the country don’t have experience with.
Despite various logistic and travel challenges presented by the coronavirus, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby team has managed to enjoy success on the recruiting trail this offseason.
The Lopes have added multiple star high school players, led by a pair of talented cousins out of Belmont Shore Rugby Club in Long Beach, California.
“It’s been interesting,” GCU Head Coach Lindsey Mahoney said of the recruiting process. “There were some dark waters we had to navigate because this is my first year recruiting players. We made some big changes to the program this year, and that has generated a lot of interest from players around the country. With everything going on with the virus and the inability to travel, that interest has made the recruiting process a little easier than it would have been otherwise.”
Southern California, in particular, has been a hot spot for the Lopes.
GCU, which finished the 2019-20 season with a 5-2-1 record, has three commitments from Belmont Shore alone: Jaila Chambers, and cousins Keona and Derica Tialavea. All three players are expected to bring energy and talent to the team.
“Belmont Shore (Rugby Club) is very similar to us in terms of play style and culture,” Mahoney said. “We’re excited to bring all three of those players in because they will fit right in with our vision.”
Also making her way to the desert from the San Diego area is Danielle Sileo, who has played for top-level select teams like Atlantis Rugby Club and Eagle Impact Rugby Academy.
“She’s very talented,” Mahoney said. “She had other offers she was considering, so we’re happy she chose us. She brings a lot to our team.”
Due to travel concerns, the Lopes couldn’t host prospects or give campus tours – staples of a normal offseason of recruiting. As a result, GCU has had three recruits decommit during the courtship process.
“That was a bummer, but it’s just how it goes with everything happening in the country right now,” Mahoney said. “We’re very excited to welcome the incoming girls. We’ll have a nice mix of new players to pair with the experienced returning girls. We’re really looking forward to next season.”
Interested in joining GCU Women’s Rugby? Contact the coach to learn more!