Mountaineers ready for action

SARANAC LAKE – The Can-Am Rugby Tournament kicks off today and local men’s and women’s teams are optimistic about their chances.

“We’re looking pretty good,” said Cameron Moody, president of the Mountaineers Rugby Football Team based in Saranac Lake, about the men’s team. “We’re coming together in the last few weeks, getting some of our guys back from college and stuff like that, and we’re starting to put together a pretty good team.”

The team will rely on backs consisting of captain Chris Gordon, Brian Abrams, Robert Clifford and Kevin and Forrest Morgan, among others. Some of the strong pack players include Pat Woodward, Kyle McGrain, Terry McGouirk and Moody, who is also a captain.

“A lot of guys have been together for quite a few years,” Moody said. “A lot of Saranac Lake guys all played sports together in high school, and now we’re getting some of the younger guys starting to funnel in, and all of us that started years ago are now becoming the older guys of the group, for sure.”

Playing in the men’s social division, the Mountaineers get into action at 11 a.m. Saturday against Keene State Alumni at the Petrova Elementary School. Last year, the team went 2-1 in the tournament that includes more than 100 teams.

“I think we’re going to do pretty well against them,” Moody said. “A lot of them are decent college players. We’ve been, over the last couple of weeks, really coming together as a team, and we look pretty strong all over the field. We don’t really have a lot of weak spots at all.”

Where the men’s and women’s Mountaineers teams are at a disadvantage against other teams is preparation and numbers. Moody said many of the other squads have more players than the local ones.

“There’s a few teams that always come prepared, and our biggest struggle is that we don’t get a lot of guys at practice early in the year, but the last couple of weeks we’re looking at 20 guys at practice, and we actually run some drills and do some things,” he said. “The bigger areas, there’s 30 guys at practice all the time, and they’re always getting good competition in practice and playing lots of games. Up here we’re out of the way for a lot of teams. They don’t want to travel to us, and we get a good two or three weeks of practices for this tournament, where everyone else has been preparing for months and playing games. It puts us at a disadvantage, but the good thing is it’s in our hometown so we’re used to the fields, and we’re not traveling and hopefully put a good team on the field.”

The Mountaineers women also have a small squad, but are optimistic about their chances this weekend. In last year’s tournament, the team went 3-1 and came within one game of the championship.

“We’ve got amazing athletes on the team, and even though we haven’t had a season where we’ve had a lot of games, they’re some really good athletes when we come together to play. The team always looks good,” said Nichole Meyette, president of Can-Am Rugby Tournament and a member of the women’s team. “We were strong last year. I personally think we stand a chance of being a competitive side. We were one game away last year of making it to the finals out in Bloomingdale. Watching the girls and their ability and their increased ability of the sport, I think we ability to make it through to Sunday again this year.”

One young player locals should look forward to seeing is Sheila Decker of Saranac Lake. Decker was named a high school All-American rugby player this year. Decker, who will be a junior at Saranac Lake High School in the fall, has earned the honor two years in a row. Along with the All-America selection, Decker earned a trip to a USA Rugby national camp held in Greeley, Colorado in July, for the second year in a row. Her elite status is what allowed her to play on the women’s squad this weekend. Otherwise, she’d be considered too young.

Decker will join other core players on the women’s team that includes Carrie Shackett, Tammy Morgan and her daughter Katie.

The women’s team doesn’t have a coach but have instead a team representative. This year that is Erica Moody. Normally a member of the squad, she is sitting out this weekend because she’s pregnant. Moody said she thinks the chances of advancing to the final rounds are good.

“We do have some new people who are gong to be playing,” she said. “We try to get everyone in. We don’t always necessarily go out to beat up on the other teams, so we like to get everyone playing time. But I think we’ll definitely make it to Sunday at least.”

The women’s first game is at 9 a.m. Saturday against Syracuse University Alumni at Petrova Elementary School.

Also playing today is the local “Old Boys” team, Mountaineers Old Boys. They get under way at noon playing against Chesty Disciples at Petrova Elementary School.