By Eva Wilton
A high energy soundtrack blasted on the 300’s field on a recent Tuesday afternoon as the women’s rugby team tackled into one another. The team has the bar set high this year in hopes of placing better than last season’s sixth place in the nation.
This year the team is challenged by a younger demographic; with young players in starting positions that would normally be played by juniors and seniors.
Two years ago, the team was ranked seventh in the nation. Last year, the team ranked sixth and made it to the Elite 8.
Erika Figueroa, ’18, co-captain of the team, has had a passion for rugby since her freshman year when she joined the team said that camaraderie on and off the field is important for success. She expects the team to surpass their sixth place standing in the nation.
“I think we really need to gel as a unit and find our groove. It will take a little bit of time to get used to each other’s playing styles. Every year is a building year and we are looking to move past everything that we have done in the year before. We are looking forward to make a Final Four appearance this year,” Figueroa said.
Charles Cisco, the head coach since 2001, has the responsibility to teach the fundamentals of the game to the new players and make sure the veteran athletes develop their skills. Also, he knows the importance of building relationships among players to develop the team’s success. “Each player on the team knows that all of the players on the pitch have each others backs. They will do anything for their fellow teammate,” Cisco said.
During pre-season, Cisco organized team bonding activities such as trivia night, attending a crossfit gym, and a morning hike allowing them to spend time together outside of their sport to ultimately promote a sense of community among the team.
Every year, the team travels to Saint Anne’s Shrine in Isle La Motte, Vt. for a winter retreat where they participate in one of their favorite team building activities, frog assassin.
“This friendship has created a special bond that translates into success on the pitch,” Cisco added.
Teamwork and trust are critical in a sport where mistakes can lead to jammed fingers, sprained ankles, dislocated shoulders, and concussions. Conditioning reduces these risks and learning how to tackle correctly in regards to head placement.
Caroline Halpin, ’18, co-captain of the team explained that rugby is a rewarding and challenging commitment. The team practices four times per week, has morning lift at 6 a.m. three times a week, and on the weekends travels to games totaling 12 to 24 hours per week. “We are held to the same standard as any varsity team,” Halpin stated.
The team also bonds through superstitions. All players have their game day routines.
“I wear the same sports bra and spandex before every game,” said Annie Hogan, ‘19. “They give me good luck. I always have someone braid my hair either Tiz or my other hair braider.” Other players eat certain food on game day, put on gear in the same order, or listen to the same music before games.
At times it is difficult to balance relationships with friends who are not on the rugby team. “I also find it hard to balance friends outside of rugby because we spend so much time with the rugby girls,” Halpin stated.
The team has lost two games. On September 10, the team lost against Boston University. This past weekend the team lost to UConn, a Division I university. “We are a very young team but we are making improvements which is good,” Figueroa said.