By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
Following a tough loss to Central Washington University in the last game of the regular season, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team has spent the last week preparing to take on a juggernaut in the D1A Rugby Playoffs (Nationals Round of 16) this Saturday, April 13. The Lopes will travel to Moraga, California, to face No. 3 Saint Mary’s College of California, a team which they have already faced earlier in the year.
As part of their preparation, the Lopes took advantage of a make-up match against Arizona State University on Thursday, April 4. According to Lopes’ Head Coach Cam Wyper, this match was more about the opportunity than the result.
“We had a pretty good win against ASU, but the best part was being able to plug in some players who were kind of on the fringe, and give them some quality time against competition that they usually don’t get,” explained Wyper. “Likewise, we were able to practice some specific systems and plans that we want to try against Saint Mary’s, and that helped us a lot.”
Although the Lopes have had plenty of practice time to prepare for their match against the Gaels, Wyper explained how vital this match was for his team’s overall readiness.
“This game against ASU was huge mainly because it allowed us to run against a really solid team, and see what we look like against real competition,” said Wyper. “There’s only so much that we can do by practicing against ourselves, but this gave us an opportunity to see how our adjustments stack up against outside competition.”
Even with a week of extra preparation, the Lopes know that beating Saint Mary’s will be a struggle nonetheless, since when the two teams played at the GCU Practice Soccer Field back on March 2, the Gaels posted an 88-15 win.
“The hardest part for our team to overcome is just going to be the quality of our opponent,” said Wyper. “They are a really great team with a ton of talent, lots of foreigners with experience, and a really solid coaching staff. We know how tough they can be, and we just have to be ready to compete.”
Despite the strength of their competition, the Lopes do know that they have one thing going for them.
“At the end of the day, they have everything to lose, and we have nothing to lose,” explained Wyper. “Coming in as the underdog we really have no pressure at all. We just need to take advantage of that and go out and play with confidence.”
With a lack of pressure, and plenty of preparation behind them, there is only one thing left for the Lopes to do.
“Just enjoy it,” said Wyper. “Just enjoy playing rugby. We get this amazing opportunity to play a sport that we all love with our mates, with nothing to lose and no pressure at all. If we’re confident and enjoy ourselves, we will be a dangerous team.”
Make sure to check out the Club Rugby home page for updates on the Lopes’ success!