Men’s team looks to impress after two straight undefeated seasons
When a team goes undefeated for two-straight years, it might seem like things couldn’t be better, but don’t be fooled—the Stingers’s face a demanding schedule.
“The main challenge of playing loaded rugby seasons is that there is no room for error,” said fifth-year player Jonathan Banks. “Rugby is such a competitive sport with heavy amounts of contact. Injuries occur and it’s important that we have the appropriate players to fill in these gaps in the lineup, which we did.”
Third-year player Lucas Hotton said time management and good nutrition are musts in extended seasons.
“Really keeping the body in good condition would be the most important challenge,” Hotton said. “Diet, training, and rest are all factors that have to be considered in such a long year. It’s so imperative to [take care of] your body if you want to make it through.”
Coming off the 2017 championship season, the Stingers knew they were going to be the ones to beat.
“Our confidence was high, yet we knew that every other team had their game against us circled on their schedule and would give us everything they got,” Banks said. “We had to keep pushing ourselves to get better and give our all every game.”
Head coach Craig Beemer described the Stingers’s second-straight undefeated season as a long process requiring the involvement of many people. He said he had a good coaching staff supporting him, as well as 50 hard-working players on and off the field.
“Players were really committed to the team,” Beemer said. “It also takes a lot of video sessions and practices to get there, and I think everybody did a fantastic job on that point.”
Hotton, who was with the Stingers during the 2016 season when they went 1-6, said the team’s current success is due to their mental strength. He was part of a core group of players, including Moritz Wittmann and Charles Debove that turned the team around to go undefeated in RSEQ play.
“Having come from the depths of a season where we finished last, and still having a lot of those players around, really propelled the guys last season, which really showed in our record,” Hotton said. “Then, to go to nationals and to have that same feeling we had when we finished last really pushed the guys once again to go back into that grind mode.”
The Stingers are headed to the 2018 Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship, in Victoria, B.C. from Nov. 21 to 25. Beemer said each individual on the team will have to play a key role if they want to win the tournament.
“We’ll need the best from all of our guys there,” Beemer said. “It’s not just about one or two individuals. We need everyone to step up and bring their A-game. The defence will need to be strong, and I think that was one of our assets this season.”
Third-year prop Stephen Martinez said having success at nationals has been the team’s goal since the start of the season.
“We all knew what was up for grabs with nationals, and that right away was our goal,” Martinez said. “Getting a RSEQ championship is a great accomplishment, but we wanted to try to take it to the next level and get a national championship.”
Hotton said the team’s participation at nationals last year in Guelph helped the players better prepare this season. The Stingers lost their two games in last year’s tournament against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, 46-0, and the McMaster Marauders, 38-11.
“That left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths coming back from Guelph,” Hotton said. “We really understood what work needed to be put in to get to a level were we could compete at the national stage. We sort of switched to a one-game-at-a-time mentality and progressed our defensive systems much more than before. To have so many returners really helped that new mentality, as they all understood what our goal was, and the work needed to get there.”
Banks credits the trust level between the coaches and players as a reason for their successful season. It allows the coaches to come up with the best game plans in order to win.
“When we stepped on the field game after game this season, we knew exactly what to do play after play,” Banks said. “Our coaches trusted in us because we trusted in them, and that’s what I believe makes this team so special.”
Main photo by Hannah Ewen.