The young and energetic UCSB women’s rugby club team has high hopes for its upcoming season. With hard work and new coaching, there do not seem to be any obstacles the Gauchos cannot tackle.

The Sweet 16 team is now under the guidance of Head Coach Kevin Battle, who is also the men’s coach. Sharing the whistle with Battle are Gabe Calabrotta, Tom Constantine and Stewart MacDonald.

“We were brought in because the squad wants to become a more serious program,” Battle said.[DN1]

Last year, which was only the second year that the women’s team has existed, the Gauchos dominated the Southern California Rugby League in the University Division, capturing first place. A successful postseason followed with the Gauchos traveling to Orlando for Nationals.

Returnees from that squad include seniors Jesse Groat and Linda Martin-Tiller, along with junior President Sarah Bow. Also returning for Santa Barbara is sophomore Wendy Willett. Freshmen Sydney Palmer and Sarah Rathburn are two newcomers hoping to fill the void created by the departure of April Loveland and an injury to Erica Shepard.

Shepard is out this season due to knee surgery and isn’t expected to return until February. Loveland graduated last year and is currently trying out for rugby’s Nations Sevens Team. Both players’ absences from this season’s team are big blows, according to Battle.

Despite a few setbacks, Battle is looking toward Santa Barbara’s competing well in the 2001-2002 season.

“So far the season is going really positive,” Battle said.

The Gauchos have been training for the past five weeks in hopes of capitalizing on last year’s achievements. Santa Barbara had a preseason match against UCSD on Oct. 27.

“All things considered, we fared pretty well,” Battle said. “[UCSD] is a really experienced team. It was a learning experience; our new players got a feel for the game.”

The Gauchos are looking to improve on last year’s success, going deeper in the postseason.

“With participation up, we’d like to win our conference and get back to Nationals,” Bow said. “We want to have a good time and keep with it.”

Santa Barbara is preparing to play in the Nor Cal Tournament this weekend along with the men’s squad. The women’s club will then face the Coast Rugby team out of Long Beach on Nov. 17. After that match, the Gauchos will head to Stanford to battle the Cardinal on Dec. 1.

[DN1]Will get name later, please continue editing, thanks-ea