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The College of Wooster women’s rugby team had a very successful season. The team plays two seasons every school year — one in the fall and one in the spring. During the fall season the team plays 15 a side while in the spring, seven a side. “For rugby, the spring season consists of tournament style play in 7s rugby. In 7s rugby you play games that are 15 minutes in length, but we play three games in a day. This can make it difficult, as you need to cover the same field space as you cover in 15s rugby, but you only have seven people to cover that distance,” explained Brianna McKeen ’21.
Coached by Anne-Marie Lemal Brown, the team attributes some of their success to her dedication. “She is an amazing coach, very patient and willing to hold extra practices if needed. She goes above and beyond for the team. Coach always does what she can to ensure we have workouts to help with preparing for the seasons. She learns new techniques or drills and does what she can to help improve our skill sets,” stated Jocelynn Vega ’20.
The team has new players join every year and Lemal Brown helps familiarize new players with the sport and the team, which Emily Gamez ’20 explained. “A lot of girls on the team now, including me, had never played rugby before,” Gamez said. “She was able to describe the game so simply and led us to first place in our second 15s season. Anne-Marie puts a lot of work into the team on and off the field. We got really lucky to have her as a coach and second mom.”
The team has had tremendous success, as shown by their strong third place finish in the Ohio Valley Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference (OVWCRC) National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) 7s Nationals Qualifier to round out this past spring season. In addition, the team placed first in the OVWCRC Champion Division, winning the championship in only their second year as an active campus organization. The team’s development was described by Garima Nayar ’20. “We started off with maybe seven people and we now have over 20 amazingly talented players! I feel like we get better with not only every season, but also every tournament. We learn from our mistakes as well as the other teams’ mistakes. We’ve come such a long way from when we started and I could not be prouder,” Nayar said.
The team dynamic was also crucial throughout the season and in the tournaments the team participated in. “I am glad rugby has led me to cross paths with the girls on the team. We have a great support system both on and off the pitch,” stated Vega. Gamez added, “We’re just a big family that uplifts one another every chance we get. It’s just all love. We’re humble and take every match as a learning opportunity.”
In addition to the team’s overall accomplishments, they also had simultaneous individual successes. “This past tournament not only helped the team to grow, but it also helped me to grow within the team as well. This is my second 7s season, and I really enjoy playing and learning all the positions that make up rugby. This January I was able to represent Wooster and Ohio as a part of the Ohio All-Star 7s team which played against other regional teams in a tournament in Florida. This really helped me to grow and better understand rugby as a whole while also getting to interact with members of other school’s rugby teams who I wouldn’t have talked to before. This season also helped me to grow as I was selected as captain for the first rugby tournament,” stated McKeen.
Some colleges and universities do not even have a rugby team, but thanks to Vanessa Ortega Ramirez ’19, there is in fact a women’s rugby team on campus. She was responsible for legitimizing the rugby team during her sophomore year and making sure it continued. The women’s rugby team has had a successful year and look to continue their success in years to come.