Western Washington University women’s rugby team currently stands at 4-1. Their final game of the season will be a rematch against the University of Washington on March 4.
The Vikings more than doubled UW's score with a 27-12 win on Nov. 19, 2022.
“We want to hit them harder than we did last time,” said Abbi Triou, captain of the team and fourth-year Western student.
With UW as one of their biggest competitors, the Vikings are working hard during practice to come up with new strategies.
“Over the past couple of years, [UW] kind of started to mirror our playing style,” said Kaylie Gladwell, one of two coaches for the Vikings. “They're going to come back and try to beat us at our own game.”
Along with coming up with new and unique ways to play, the Vikings have a strong forward line and an athletic and fast backline, according to coach Charlie Ronan.
“Our forward pack has speed, and other teams don't typically have that,” Gladwell said. “Speed is our number one weapon.”
The Vikings’ season finale will be an away game, testing the players’ focus with a match not on their home turf.
“We like to send people home at a loss, and we like to come back with the win,” Ronan said.
To keep their mindset in check for the game ahead, players feed off of each other's energy and “go feral.”
“Our motto that we use is ‘feral energy,’” Triou said. “We got to go feral, we’re gonna give it 110%. This is for us, this is for Western."
Another motto and positive affirmation for the Vikings is, “I am strong, I am powerful, I am dangerous,” according to Ronan.
“They surprise themselves with what they're physically capable of,” Ronan said. “I try to facilitate a safe and positive learning space and to try to get people to realize more potential than they thought they had.”
Triou says their four wins have come from their on- and off-field connections.
“You can't have unity on the field if you are fighting or you hate each other. Building those connections and relationships off the field helps bring it on the field,” she said.
Like many sports at Western, rugby has a supportive and safe community. Making lifelong friends is a “long-term benefit” of being part of the team, Triou mentioned.
Gladwell said the culture of this year’s team is one of the best that she’s seen. Gladwell was a member of the women’s rugby team from 2014 to 2018 before becoming a coach.
This sense of community is not solely a Viking mentality; women’s rugby is an inclusive sport all over the world.
“You can go to any city, anywhere in the world, join a rugby team, and you immediately have a community of people who will be there to support you in one way or another,” Ronan said.
According to the lead of marketing and communications at USA Rugby, Calder Cahill, rugby creates a space where you can make friends purely because you play the same sport.
“Our national teams have the pleasure of traveling the world and even in opponent territory are welcomed with open arms by fans and organizers alike,” he said. “If you travel to another country and happen to meet someone who has also played rugby, your conversation with them will be like a friend you've known forever.”
A game as unique as rugby, with strong forwards and quick backs, can be played by any person with any body type, according to Triou.
“All genders, all athletic abilities, all sexualities, everything,” Triou said. “Everyone’s welcome; no matter what, this place is for you.”
As the game against UW approaches, the Vikings are working on their communication and tightening up their defense.
“In rugby, you have to be a well-oiled machine, so we’re just working toward that,” Ronan said.
Not only does the team have to prepare physically, but they need to be mentally ready as well.
According to Triou, the Vikings work on visualization the week leading up to the game. This consists of visualizing tackles, rucks, plays, etc.
“Once people start visualizing that they can do something, they will start to believe, and then it will show greatly in a game,” she said. “We make it a big deal to reiterate that we are ‘playing our game’ and need to focus on what we do as a team, not what other teams are doing.”
Women's rugby is open to anyone throughout the year by going onto the team’s website or by emailing the team.
“If you’re looking for a great group of friends and you want to hit some people, try out rugby,” Ronan said.
For more photos of women’s rugby, click here.
Briana Tuvey (she/her) is a sports and recreation reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a third-year and is planning to major in visual journalism with a minor in psychology and sociology. She also enjoys soccer, photography and watching movies.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org