Photos: Richard A. Whittaker
Meet Stephanie Mercier. She’s a fifth-year nursing student, former goaltender on the women’s hockey team, and now a flanker on the women’s rugby team.
She may be new to rugby, after learning the sport in only three months, but this well-rounded athlete is making an impact after her transition to the sport for her final year as a Gee-Gee. We sat her down to get her thoughts on the team’s recent 91-0 triumph over the Carleton Ravens, what it takes to get in the rugby mindset, and her advice to new student athletes.
The Fulcrum: What prompted you to try out for rugby?
Mercier: Due to my nursing schedule this year, I couldn’t play hockey because there was no way I could make it to games. However, the first semester is all clinical work which means I could play a fall sport and concentrate on school during the second semester. I had a couple of friends on the rugby team as I was doing the Student Athletic Council,and they told me to come try it out and see if I like it, and that I might have a shot at training camp. I then met with the coach and she told me I needed to play a little bit of rugby and know the game before I could come to the training camp. I stayed over the summer and played with one of the teams in Ottawa, learned the game and then went to training camp!
What are the major differences between hockey and rugby in how you approach the game?
I’m a goalie on the rink, so I wait for the game to come to me and I have to stay mentally calm the whole time. I tend to fall back on my reflexes and have confidence in myself that I can stop a puck wherever it might go. In rugby I go to the play, I make the tackle, I’m running high on emotion and using that drive to go knock someone down or to get the ball or to run faster. I have to go be more intense and be more aggressive. I still have to keep calm and collected, but I’m a lot more aggressive than I would be waiting for a play and reacting to it. Another difference is the rugby season is two months going hard, and your body is tired every day. You don’t feel good any time during the rugby season, whereas in hockey you train during the off-season, but you last through eight months and it’s more about maintenance throughout the year instead of going all out. You have to pace yourself.
What do you like best about Gee-Gee’s rugby?
The team is awesome, the coach is great, and it’s also a great opportunity to grow as an athlete. I’m constantly learning and the girls help me out and are so patient with me because I’m new. They are always there to explain and I really appreciate that.
Do you have any pre-game traditions?
I’ve been playing hockey for 20 years, so I definitely have my little ritual. I go in the room, re-tape my stick, place my pads, make sure my gloves are broken in properly, and of course listen to the same song, and make sure everything’s ready. For rugby I have my pump up music and stretch a little bit, but I’m mostly just concentrating on what I have to do in the game.
Do you think you will continue to play after graduation?
If I don’t break something! I’d like to and I have been playing club, and I really enjoyed playing with my team. If I’m around next summer I’ll definitely go back.
How did winning over the Ravens 91-0 feel?
It feels good. We go on and we don’t really concentrate on the score, we just have to keep doing what we can do and keep playing at the top of our game, regardless of the score. Of course it feels good to win but we have to stay concentrated. We can’t take it easy because we’re beating them by that margin. We have to stay focused on the game.