Nothing compares to high-quality rugby.
GLENDALE – With Women’s Premier League (WPL) action concluded for 2016, the Glendale Raptors Women have their sights set on the international stage. A total of eight Raptors were selected to participate in the Women’s Eagles National All-Star Competition (NASC) which took place from Dec. Dec. 29, 2016, through Jan. 3, 2017 including Sarah Chobot, Patricia Ford, Joanna Kitlinksi, Jenny Lui, Melissa Polheber, Kristen Shaloski, Hannah Stolba and Justine Wypych.
“The NASC, for us, is a selection venue,” Steinberg told USA Rugby. “There’s not a lot of time for player development. We’re going to be playing what we think is our current top 15 versus our ‘next’ 15 to get our best players together and get the highest level of play out of the athletes.”
Taking place at Tigertown Complex in Lakeland, Fla., the competition presented an opportunity for USA Eagles head coach Pete Steinberg and staff an early look at the player pool in preparation for this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, which will take place this August in Ireland.
“For all of us that went it meant continue to put in the hard work once season was over,” said Wypych. “Seeing so many Raptors at camp shows that our team has so much talent, one of the many reasons why I made the move here this past summer to play for Glendale. Overall, I’m so thankful for the experience to go to camp and can thank the Raptors for that chance.”
Added teammate Kristen “Shiloh” Shalosky, “Nothing compares to high-quality rugby matches in terms of player development, so having these extra two games in the off-season is a huge boost to the Raptors who got to attend. These development camps also have this great multiplier effect; the players who attend are better and more knowledgeable for the experience, and we can then bring that back to our home clubs. Even having one player attend a national camp can make a significant impact on a club, so the fact that Glendale sent eight players increases that impact.”
In addition to the eight players selected, Raptors coaches Kitt Ruiz and Jon Mooney were selected to be part of the coaching staff at the NASC for the Junior All-Americans. “Being able to work with one of Glendale’s assistant coaches at the USA level only makes us a better coaching team,” said Ruiz. “We are able to grow and learn together as well as learn new things to bring back to Glendale. Having the opportunity to work at this level gives us many tools to bring back to the club. This is also true for the players from Glendale that participated at the NASC. This players would learn from new coaches and work side by side with players that they get to learn from and grow with. Players have the opportunity to play in a different structure and see the game from another view point.”
In the same manner as the players on the field, the NASC is deemed as an equally important opportunity for the development of American coaches. An opportunity for domestic coaches to attend the NASC and gain experience working in a High Performance environment was made possible through the Elite Coach Development Program.
The Raptors did experience one setback at the competition, with scrumhalf Jenny Lui breaking a hip early on in the competition.
Nevertheless, the experience was deemed invaluable by Lui and all the Raptors who participated.
“The NASCs are an important competition because it gives players an additional chance to play high level rugby,” reflected Lui. “Compared to other rugby nations, our opportunities are fewer so we have to take advantage of any chances we get to play under pressure. Seeking out opportunities to play under pressure is what helped make me a better player. That’s one of the reasons I came to Glendale to play in the WPL. It’s a high level team in a high level competition.”
Photo by Seth McConnell