After leading the Notre Dame High School Royals girls rugby team to the 2019 championship, Conrad Kerber hopes lightning will strike twice - this time at Tiyan.
Three weeks into the Guam Rugby Football Union/Interscholastic Sports Association season, Kerber, the Tiyan High School Titans head coach, already sees a bright future. Boasting a 6-2-0 record, the Titans have earned the respect.
Last season, the Titans won only two games - a feat they accomplished in Week 1 this season.
Initially, Kerber wasn’t looking for a new team. But, his departure from ND, coupled with his teaching marine biology at Tiyan, created an easy transition. And, as luck would have it, the Titans needed a coach.
“I teach marine biology at Tiyan, so it just made sense that I do what I can to help the rugby program here,” Kerber said. “I saw an opening for the girls and boys teams, and I took it.”
With the team’s only two seniors Tiara Fernandez and Lana Untalan, sharing their experience and motivating the younger players, the underclassmen are learning the game and stepping up.
“So far, we are having a great start,” Fernandez said. “We only won two games last year and lost the rest. We just need to keep pushing and working hard as a team.
“My coach knows what we need to work on to help us become better players.”
One of a coach’s greatest challenges, especially with a new team, is getting the players to buy into a new system and implementing the instruction on the field. So far, the Titans have done both.
“They are really making efforts, and they are believing in themselves,” Kerber said. “I know we have such a competitive league this year, and it’s going to be a challenge to get the goals we are setting for ourselves.
“But, with this young team, I am happy with the wins.”
With the Tiyan rugby program in desperate need of life support, Kerber’s pedigree piqued the interest of nearly 30 girls - all wanting to be a part of something great. With enough players to field varsity and junior varsity squads, Kerber’s Titans grassroots project is starting to form roots.
“It’s a developing year, for sure,” Kerber said. “It feels good trying to develop a young, unstructured team of players that just want to play the sport, and that’s what I look for.
“We just play to see how well we do each game.“
Last Saturday, a gauge of where they stand, the Titans lost a close battle to the Royals. With Faith Moylan and Hana Takano leading ND, the Titans lost, 14-10.
Kerber, his heart torn between the two schools, watched the young, thundering Titans nearly topple a juggernaut. With some of his former ND players already catching the eyes of college coaches and the Guam Women’s National Rugby Team, Kerber is trying to create the same opportunities at Tiyan.
“A couple of my former players, from last year’s team, are vying for spots on Guam’s National Rugby Team,” Kerber said. “A few more have college acceptance letters to play rugby.
“Now, I can work on this batch of athletes and see what happens for them. Hopefully, they can get some opportunities too.”
With a newfound sense of pride, Fernandez is thankful for Kerber.
“It’s better this year,” she said. “He’s been into rugby, so he knows a lot. He helps me work on what I need.”