67°F & Clear 7 day forecast Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Rugby team prepares for postseason play

At Monday night’s practice, the Grand Valley State University men’s club rugby team left no stone unturned, running the same drills ad nauseam until not a flaw could be seen.

No one wants to come up short again this year.

On Saturday, the Lakers (8-2) will head to Detroit to take on the Golden Flash of Kent State University in the Great Lakes Conference Championship. GVSU, which went undefeated in the GLC, has been to the conference championship game each of the past three years. The winner of the game earns a bid to play in the USA Collegiate Championships. For the past three years, the Lakers have been forced to hang their cleats up prematurely, coming up short when it mattered most.

Sophomore winger Colin Dekam said he believes that this will be the year GVSU finally breaks through.

“We’ve beaten several good teams so far and went undefeated during regular season play, so we like to thing we can hang with just about anybody in the postseason,” Dekam said.

The Lakers’ path this season has groomed them well for this weekend, blending a smooth mix of top-notch competition and confidence-boosting victories to perfectly prepare them for their prize. GVSU lost its first game of the season to Michigan State University—a Division I program—before winning eight of its next nine. The Lakers’ only loss in that span came against another Division I opponent in No. 6 Davenport University.

The losses to higher competition were just what the team needed as the Lakers rolled through their Division II schedule, going undefeated and nearly untouched, outscoring the opposition at a 365-14 advantage.

GVSU nearly faltered down the stretch, finding itself minutes away from a loss at the paws of Oakland University. With their undefeated Division II record slipping away with each vanishing second on the clock, the Lakers anchored down and scored two lightning-quick tries in a span of just five minutes, preserving yet another win. This type of grit and determination has been instrumental in the Lakers’ success this year time and time again.

“This team handles adversity really well,” senior 8-man Dave Giese said. “Last year, when the other team scored or we made a bad play, our team would cave in on itself. This year we’re staying positive and cohesive, and it’s helped us along the way.”

As the players know full well, though, positivity alone will get them nowhere fast. Fortunately, the team has the talent, pedigree, and above all, the motivation to win a game its failed to conquer so often in years past.

USA Rugby has the Lakers as the No. 8 Division II team in the nation with Kent State nipping at their heels, clutching the No. 12 ranking of its own. After rolling through the end of their regular season schedule, the Lakers are working to focus on what will likely be the toughest Division II competition they will have seen this season.

“If we can win, it’ll be a big morale boost for our team to show that we can play with anyone,” sophomore inside center Dylan Bergbower said. “It’ll be one of the toughest games we play this season, but we all want to send our seniors out right.” aknorr@lanthorn.com



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