By Jackie Finlan
After the long winter break, John Middleton was looking forward to retaking the pitch for a friendly against New Mexico. Women's DI college Texas Tech's second Texas Cup match was only weeks away, and stretches of bad weather have hampered the team's training. Middleton also wanted to see his new-look team in action.
"For some reason, myself and fellow coach Kyle Alvarado thought it would be a good idea to focus on agility training to reduce injuries and not keep the tempo that we did in our fall practices," Middleton reflected on Saturday's 32-17 loss. "We are a small team and have been for some time now, but we have never been flat-out over-powered like we were on Saturday. UNM ran through our tackles and threw us around like a bunch of little kids. I am amazed we scored 17 points."
"I can make a laundry list of excuses," Middleton offered, "players graduating, rust, the flu, the weeks' weather not letting us practice, first year in DI, etc. In the end, we just didn't play the physical, straightforward rugby that we have been known for, and that all comes back to coaching. We have been ignoring the basic premise of conditioning for contact and conditioning for power."
After the loss, Middleton, Alvarado and team leaders regrouped and mapped out what needed to change before the Feb. 19 game against Texas A&M. "The UNM loss will do more to help us than anything," Middleton said. "It was an eye-opening and humbling experience for our team. We talk about how vulnerable the flat defense can be in practice all the time, and our girls saw exactly what we meant. We talk about not getting too confident and sticking to our system, and that is exactly what we didn't do."
Middleton and Alvarado must balance the increase in physicality at practice with the recovering health of the squad. Training in sub-freezing temperatures has ailed the team. "I don't know if we need to give them Vitamin C packets at practice or what," Middleton joked, "but that's our first concern."
As the squad looks forward to playing in warmer weather down in College Station, Texas, in two Saturdays' time, they return to the practice pitch with renewed motivation. "The team is geared up for A&M and we all know what we need to do the next two weeks," Middleton said. "We are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them. A&M is hungry to beat us and wants to show that our win in November was a fluke. We are here to show that we belong in Division I and compete on a national level. It's gonna be a hell of a game."