Sports

Lakers have season of learning rugby

PEN HIGH LAKER Nakai Penny hammers South Kamloops Titan Nick Warner during AAA Okanagan Valley senior boys rugby action in Kamloops. The Lakers lost the game and play their next match April 17 in Mt. Boucherie. The Lakers make their home debut on April 25 at McNicoll Park against the Salmon Arm Gold. - Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week
PEN HIGH LAKER Nakai Penny hammers South Kamloops Titan Nick Warner during AAA Okanagan Valley senior boys rugby action in Kamloops. The Lakers lost the game and play their next match April 17 in Mt. Boucherie. The Lakers make their home debut on April 25 at McNicoll Park against the Salmon Arm Gold.
— image credit: Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week

Ken Sommerfeldt hopes for a steep learning curve with the Pen High Lakers senior boys rugby team.

Sommerfeldt, the Lakers coach, is working with a squad of 21 that features 10 players who had never played rugby prior to their opening-season loss to the South Kamloops Titans April 3.

“It didn’t go particularly well,” said Sommerfeldt of the 56-0 loss.

While the Lakers are inexperienced or “green” as veteran Laker Nakai Penny said, they faced a Titans team that just returned from a spring break trip to the United Kingdom where they played four games.

Penny, who has played on two provincial teams in 2012 and 2013, said they were at a significant disadvantage against the Titans because of experience.

“It’s kind of like throwing them into the fire just right off the bat,” said Penny. “It’s a great learning experience. Against a strong team, there’s no better learning than losing like that.”

“I wasn’t totally surprised with the outcome,” said Sommerfeldt, who is also coaching the Lakers junior boys rugby team.

Penny can’t be expected to carry the Lakers, joked Sommerfeldt of the 18-year-old.

“Despite everything he tries to do, he can’t be the only guy out there that knows what he’s doing,” said Sommerfeldt. “There are a few other players out there who do have experience.”

Penny said he’s excited for his final season of high school rugby, especially with his friends playing. Penny said it feels good to have players look up to him and welcomes the chance to teach players the game and sees himself as a “mini coach.”

Sommerfeldt is glad to take advantage of this week for practice as the Lakers don’t play again until April 17 when they visit Mt. Boucherie to take on the Bears. With a game under their belt, the Lakers coach said, players should understand what’s happening now. The plan was to go over drills for plays they were unsure about. Sommerfeldt anticipates a tough season, but he said the main thing is for the players to have fun.

While Sommerfeldt is unsure how good the other teams are, he expects to play strong opponents in the season’s opening games. The next one after Mt. Boucherie is in Kelowna against the Owls on April 22. The Owls have traditionally assembled strong squads. In the the last half of the season, the Lakers host Salmon Arm on April 25, Rutland on April 28 and NorKam on May 1, and Sommerfeldt hopes the team improves enough to win those matches.

“I’d like to be able to make the playoffs,” he said, adding six of seven teams in the Okanagan AAA league make it.

Below, Titan's Tristan Muhr watches and Laker Brady Roguski looks to make the catch.

 

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