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Having come hard out of the gates with a 2-0 record thus far in the Women’s Premier League, the Glendale Merlins will face arguably their toughest challenge yet of their inaugural campaign, travelling to face reigning league and National champion San Diego Surfers this Saturday.
“Anytime you get to play the National Champs you get fired up, but this one has an extra bite because we lost in the final to them,” said Merlins captain Sarah Chobot “Once again, we are playing a season opener for an opponent, so we really are not sure who is back and what they will look like, but one thing you can count on will be that they are a talented bunch.”
Playing as the Glendale Raptors last season, Glendale lost 26-16 to San Diego in the WPL Final. The two sides also split the regular season series last season, with each team taking home victory on their respective home grounds.
With the two teams neck and neck in terms of overall quality, Chobot stressed the importance for the Merlins to put forth a complete effort in different areas of the pitch.
“I expect our pack to keep working hard and imposing will at set piece time, and that’s a big platform for us,” She explained. “I expect it to be a real firecracker with lots of explosive plays and some great individual efforts from both teams. I think it will come down to which team can play the best in their structures. Maintaining possession will be huge for us; we were pretty soft at the breakdown and cleaning up the handling errors will be big.”
Chobot is one of several Merlins players with international caps. But like Glendale, the Surfers also have several players with USA Eagles experience.
“We just don’t know who they will have available,” said Chobot. “They have a ton of Eagles down in San Diego, but after a World Cup you just don’t know who will be out.”
After two games, however, Glendale is starting to form a solid impression of who the Merlins are. The team is once again expecting big things from the multi-talented Allie Hale, who put in a Player of the Match performance last weekend in Glendale’s 20-6 win over Chicago North Shore.
“We expect more great things from her,” said Chobot. “Keep an eye out for Julie Tordonato to start to really open things up. [Amandine Chatelier] has also worked hard in both of our games and has been very disruptive.”
Regardless of outcome, another match between two of the most successful women’s rugby programs in the country will prove to excite once more.
Said Chobot, “This will be a barn burner! The team is real excited for this one, and I think people have been eyeing this game since the schedule dropped.”
Elsewhere, the Glendale Merlins Men’s and Women’s D1 teams will participate in the 50th Annual Aspen Ruggerfest in Aspen, Colorado. Ruggerfest, a long-time favorite of amateur rugby teams across the country, may prove a challenge for Glendale Merlins Men’s Director of Rugby Development Luke Gross, whose D2 team lost to the Denver Barbarians at Infinity Park 24-36 on September 9. In the past ten years, the Denver Barbarians have won Ruggerfest three times; Glendale only once in 2014.
The Women’s team will be led by Division I head coach Jon Mooney and will face off against some familiar opponents in the Women’s division at Aspen Ruggerfest including the boulder Babes and the Lady Vipers.
The Men’s U20 team led by head coach David Synnott will travel to Albuquerque to match up against the University of New Mexico. Thus far, the U20s have two wins under their belt with a 114-0 win over Air Force Academy on September 2 and an 82-10 win over Regis University on September 9 at Infinity Park.
Looking ahead, the Merlins family of teams will play at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado on September 23.
- 1pm: Men’s U20 vs University of Denver (park)
- 3pm: Men’s Elite vs Mystic River (stadium & live stream)
- 5pm: Women’s Premier League team vs Lindenwood University (stadium & live stream)
Tickets are on sale now at glendalemerlins.com
Featured Image Credit: Seth McConnell, Glendale Merlins