While students all over campus were trying to find their new classrooms, the McMaster athletic year was already well under way. Showcasing key Marauders every seven days, the Pita Pit Athlete of the Week highlighted centre Britni French of the Marauders’ women’s rugby team, along with the football team’s defensive back Noah Hallett.
The women’s rugby team opened up their 2017 campaign with a dominating win over the York Lions, emphatically handing the Lions their first loss of the season. The Marauders, led by French, looked back to championship form under the lights at Ron Joyce Stadium on Sept. 3 and never gave the visiting team a chance to overtake them.
“We went into the game and our focus was to just go for it,” French said. “We are all about words, and our word for that game was punish. We wanted to punish them. We wanted them to go home and not want to play us again. I think we accomplished that throughout.”
“We are all about words, and our word for that game was ‘punish’. We wanted to punish them.
French was responsible for kicking off a 50-0 run for the Marauders with an early try, and contributed greatly on both sides of the ball. Entering her fourth season on the team, French is part of a leadership core of senior players determined to run through every team in their path while showing the newest team members how the women’s rugby program operates.
“We have a leadership group going on right now, myself and a few other athletes on the team,” she said. “We are working together to create a positive environment and show some leadership on the field, not just in a spoken way but also by the way we play. The role I like to take is not so much the talking responsibility, I would rather show through the way I play.”
It will be important for senior players like French to lead by example on the field this season if they hope to regain their former glory. Following a tough season that ended in a loss to the Guelph Gryphons in the Ontario University Athletics Championship and an early exit in the U Sports Championship Tournament, the team has a new group of fresh faces to integrate into the team.
“We have a very young team, and our biggest challenge right now is not being caught up in that, realizing that those first-year players are just as great as our fourth-year players,” said French. “I think over our training camp, we really saw that. As the week went on, those people who were coming in as first-year athletes were then stepping into more dominant rules throughout the training session. That was awesome to see and something to keep working towards.”
Already, this young Marauder team appears to be on the right path to return to the OUA Finals and also have a good showing in the national tournament. There are still three more games to play in the rugby regular season and it is by no means an easy road, yet the Marauders have their sights set high.
“I would really like to see us in an OUA Final again, hopefully coming out on the winning side this year,” French said. “That is a goal of mine. As well as just helping this first-year athletes to continue to grow into the program.”
One key rookie on the team is Tia Svoboda whose sisters both play for the Marauders as well, and is already making a name for herself on the team, noted a pair of tries against the Lions and leading the group of incoming players who look to make an impact on a successful program.
The next team in their way is the Western Mustangs, who they will face on Sept 15 at 5 p.m. While the Marauders enjoyed a bye week during which they were able to focus more on core aspects of their game, they will maintain the same mantra while in London.
“We’ve been thinking of that one word and how we got to punch up the line and make them feel punished for playing us.”