Staples spring preview: Rugby team carries high hopes
Published 11:55 am, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
WESTPORT—While the spring season for most doesn’t start for another several weeks, the Staples High School rugby team is already in preparation for its season, which begins in a little more than a week.
The Wreckers have high hopes for another successful spring under the guideship of head coach Dave Lyme, who, through youth clinics with the Westport PAL that begin this spring, is helping introduce the sport in town to a much younger age group. That will pay off down the road, but for now numbers are steadily increasing. There are more than 70 athletes in the program, that will feature a freshman team as well.
“We also have about five in the Staples team who have come in from the Aspetuck and Fairfield programs,” Lyme said. “They’ve come into Staples with a couple years behind them. Those things will make a big difference as far as knowledge.”
It starts with inside center Michael Jennings, who was named All-American the past two seasons. He was recently invited to the All American squad to compete in Paris, and participated in the USA 7s High School Invitational, held March 2-4 in Las Vegas. The event was the largest international rugby event in North America.
“He’s a confident player and believes in himself,” Lyme said. “He’s just a very a skillful user of the ball, but at the same time very confident in his own ability.”
Most of Staples’ top other contributions from last season return, including Michael Overton and Ben van der Merwe, raising expectations that the group could qualify for the state playoffs. Several football and lacrosse athletes have also joined the program, providing a positive mix of experience and potential.
Staples went 3-3 a year ago, and has six regular season games scheduled for 2017. It begins March 24 at home under the lights at Staples Stadium in a trial match against Fairfield co-op and will end May 12 when the Wreckers visit Fairfield. Staples is competing in the six-team Division I league; there are now a total of 15 varsity teams in the state.
The Wreckers host defending state champion Greenwich May 5.
“We talk about being better than we were yesterday in training today,” Lyme said. “We have one goal, which is to perform better this week than we did last week. If we can get that right we will have a positive season.”
A seventh game would take place in the state semifinals.
“It’s a difficult competition this year,” Lyme said. “You’ve got no team in there that might be easier than the next one. They’re all going to be very tough; you’re going to have to be playing to the best of your ability, and you can’t have an off night.”