The Glendale Rugby Football Club has officially announced its plans for the future of its Glendale Merlins women’s rugby programs, including a restructuring of the Women’s Premier League and Division 1 teams, as well as new head coaches for each side.
The current Glendale Merlins women’s head coach, Kittery (Kitt) Ruiz, who most recently led the WPL side to consecutive second-place national finishes, announced last spring her plans to relocate to the East Coast in 2018. In turn, Glendale’s Director of Rugby Development, Luke Gross, is eager to take over the position as the new head coach moving forward.
Gross, a highly respected U.S. player, coach and administrator, cites his time coaching forwards on the U.S. Women’s National Team as one of the most memorable experiences in his thick coaching portfolio; and Kitt, who played under Gross at that time, couldn’t be more pleased to see him take over the team.
“Luke has a great rugby mind and I know the team will continue to develop under him,” she said. “I’m so proud of how our program grew on and off the field this past year. We were undefeated until the last match of the season and that was a huge accomplishment. But, even more than that, this team became a family and that isn’t something that happens often.”
The Glendale Merlins Women’s team has consistently placed at the top of the league, either winning or placing second five times since 2012. Gross, who’s been with Glendale Rugby for just six months, recognizes the level of dedication the women’s program has put in and doesn’t take his job lightly.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Gross stated. “This is among the top women’s program in the country and I can’t wait to get started. I’ve seen how these women have learned to be game-time decision makers and I’m excited to continue to develop those skills.”
Glendale’s women’s teams have long complemented each other, but in 2018, the plan is to separate the program even further, with the Merlins Division 1 side kicking off in the spring season, while the Merlins WPL side will continue competing during the fall.
“The hope is to really focus on player development,” said Mark Bullock, Director of Glendale Rugby. “With the two separate seasons, we should be able to more clearly focus on not only the specific team, but on the players, as well. Luke is a perfect choice to lead the WPL in this regard. He is a very player-centered coach, which should make for an easy transition.”
In regards to Division I side, Angie Cranmore will stay on and take over as the official head coach. First hired on in 2011 to coach the Glendale DII Women’s Team, Cranmore has been filling various coaching roles with the women ever since and now will lead the DI side in its National Championship quest.
“With Luke and Angie leading these two teams, I’m confident our Merlins Women’s programs will continue to lead the way at their respective levels,” Bullock continued. “Angie really stepped in and grabbed a hold of the team last year and has already led them to several significant victories. I look forward to seeing how the restructuring of the teams will benefit our players even more.”
“We have been so grateful to Kitt and her dedication to the team over the years and now we can successfully field two top level teams and go forward focusing our energy, resources and coaches on where they are needed,” he added.
Kitt agreed, adding, “To see these two teams continue to grow and have two very competitive sides is amazing. The number of players that are turning out to compete for Glendale is awesome and it really goes to show just how much they are taking the lead in growing the women’s game, not only in Denver, but across the country.”
For more information on the Glendale Merlins Women’s Rugby programs, please visit https://glendalemerlins.com/elite-womens-rugby/.
Featured Image: Seth McConnell, Glendale Merlins