By contributor Elijah Robinson
Following a historic season of15-a-side rugby in the first semester, the VIU seven-a-side team has yet to slow down in preparation for next season.
The VIU rugby club started the first semester of the year in confusion. With only two practices as a team, they began the season record with a loss to their Island rivals, UVic.
With efforts from the senior leaders, new additions to the team, and a new coaching staff, the VIU Storm made a quick turn around, and captured their first win in the tier one level against a very tough Mainland club, United RFC.
The weather wreaked havoc on the schedule and back to back games were cancelled. Despite the shortened season, the Storm’s stalwarts continued with another win against James Bay RFC, followed by a humbling loss to UBC. VIU was at 2-2 by the end of October. With just two games left in the season, VIU hosted Western Washington University and came away with their first win against another University program. For the final game of the season, VIU hosted UBC-Okanagan, a team that had trounced VIU the previous year. VIU managed to hold off a last minute UBC-O charge to salvage a 21-19 win which put the team’s record at 4-2, the club’s best record to date in tier one.
Alex Brown, the team’s active captain credited the team’s recent success to the “new recruits,” but mainly, “the under-dog heart that VIU has always had.” Brown also said, “The guys would always go out and give 100 percent no matter the outcome.”
While Brown also credits the coaching staff, Seth Recalma, one of the team’s seniors said “with the help of our head coach, Jon Rose, we’ve risen to new heights.” Recalma also credits the team’s manager, Drew Cooper, “who not only started the program, but spends day and night thinking of ways to further the team’s success.”
With a new year starting up, the core group stuck together, and returned to the field to play with the local Nanaimo Hornets club side. With a few new additions, the team also initiated training to get a head start on the seven aside season.
Unfortunately, due to weather, all the tournaments scheduled in the season were cancelled. However, this never stopped the sevens team from getting dirty. Even through harsh conditions, the VIU Storm could be found on the field, hitting bags, and running drills.
The club has improved from its start, and has yet to slow down. On top of the sevens practices, a majority of the students playing for the VIU club took on the challenge of an extended training schedule, adding two nights of training with the Nanaimo Hornets, leaving very little time for rest.
“The Hornets has had our backs from day one,” Brown said, they “helped all the new guys learn the game of rugby, [and improve] their skills, [while] providing facilities and coaching staff that have allowed [the members] to excel as a team and as individuals.”
In addition, Recalma said “I have nothing but good things to say about their program.”
Despite the slow sevens season, the VIU players made up for the lack of game time by playing with the Hornets. The VIU players were able to gain experience and learn from experienced vets of the game. Some players like Brown played for the first division team, while the majority of the team played for the division two team.
First year student and rookie, Steven Drozd recalls his time adapting to the different style of play on the Island. Despite having multiple years of experience playing rugby with his hometown club, Drozd said “there was definitely a call for a higher level of fitness [playing on the island] which was something I was not used to playing for my hometown club. It called for me to step up, to be something better than I was before and I’m glad I did, as not only did it make me a better rugby player, but showed me not to give up even when your body can’t take it anymore.”
Drozd’s level of endurance and commitment earned him a call up to the first division team where he described his experiences as being nervous as it was his “highest level of rugby” he has played, but found reassurance once the game began.
“Once that whistle goes it doesn’t matter anymore and I can be in my element,” Drozd said.
Head Coach Jon Rose pointed out that Drozd, among others, “are the sophomores [he] will be looking to lead [the] back line.”
Rose points out that the team “will only lose one player to graduation” and “the upcoming fall season is looking very promising.”