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Bellingham
Monday, July 6, 2020

A new challenge for women’s rugby

By Alexis Edgar

 

As the dark of night hovers above Robert S. Harrington Field, a team waits in silence. The only sounds disturbing the quiet are the soft scraping of cleats on the turf and the distant hum of the traffic outside of campus.

They are Western’s women’s rugby team, and they take the game seriously.

The 32-women team practices three days a week for two-hour blocks, more than their male counterparts. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the women step onto the pitch ready to learn and improve, despite adverse weather conditions.

The team’s level of dedication is showing outwardly, as the women’s rug

Women rugby players stand strong in front of the scoreboard at Harrington field. // Photo courtesy women’s rugby

by team crushed the competition last season at the Division II level.

“Last season, we killed it,”  senior scrum-half Kayla Adderley said. “We beat everyone in our league. I think nine times out of 10, it was over 100 to 0.”

The rugby team was invited to compete at the Division I level in the Pacific Mountain Regional Conference this year, after a dominating 11-0 record last season.

Competition will be stiff, as the women’s rugby team will play other club teams that have participated at the D-I level previously. These teams include University of Oregon, Oregon State University, University of Washington, Central Washington University and Washington State University.

The PMRC lists Washington State University as a major contender with a strong offense. Last season, WSU scored 142 points, the highest of all five schools competing at the conference. Central Washington came in at second with 128 points scored, and only five points allowed by opposing teams.

Senior Lauren Heller, the team’s eight-man, is excited for the level change.

“I’m thirsty for competition,” Heller said.

She attributes the players’ ferocity and passion as contributing factors for the team’s success.

“There is definitely a standard of come to practice and focus up,” Heller said. “We have a level of intensity we try to introduce to new players.”

The intensity felt by Heller resonates through the team.

Adderley said Western students should come to the games and witness the intensity for themselves.

“It’s going to be the most exciting match you’ll ever come out and see,” Adderley said. “Rugby is so crazy to watch. There’s tackles left and right and people are flying across the field; you’re just drawn in.”

While the team said their fervor as a whole has helped propel them to the highest division of college rugby, they credit coach Michael Mauger as the greatest influencing factor in their triumph.

Mauger has been coaching the women’s rugby team since April 2016 as a volunteer, per club sport regulations. Although unpaid, Mauger’s dedication and determination to the team is unwavering.

“He’s so passionate about rugby,” Heller said. “He loves coming to train with us and make us better players.”

As the team approaches their first D-1 game, Mauger said he hopes the skills the women are learning will serve them well in this new division.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the team will behave,” Mauger said. “They overpowered every team in the conference last year and this year, maybe, it’s not going to be so easy.”

Heller and Adderley said they are not concerned. They have a secret weapon — senior Sydney Gildersleeve, the other eight-man.

“[Gildersleeve] is super fast,” Heller said. “She ran track in high school and it’s so noticeable on the field. People can’t catch her. She’ll take the ball, grab it and go, and no one can find her because she’s just unbelievably fast.”

Adderley said passion for the sport keeps her and the team progressing and pushing to become better.

“[Rugby] is something you feel in your bones and in your blood,” Adderley said. “You’ll bleed for the sport, and you’re willing to do anything for the team and anything for the sport.”

Backs captain Carinna Snider and teammates Darbi Colson and Kris Tsuchiyama agree.

“Love of the game comes from love of the team,” Snider said

Tsuchiyama said the women’s rugby team is a family.

“It’s like dying for the person next to you, knowing you have that support on the field or off the field,” Tsuchiyama said.

The rugby team is getting ready for battle and lacing up their cleats as their first match is scheduled for 10 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, against the Seattle Mudhens.

“The WWU women’s rugby is going to go out there and kick butt and you can’t stop us” Heller said.

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