If you want something you have never had, then you have got to do something you have never done.
This fall season the women’s rugby team has overcome numerous obstacles to do what was seemingly impossible, defend their DII Rugby Northeast Conference Champion title. Last spring the team graduated 12 starting players and returned at the beginning of this semester with 14 players total, proving an issue as rugby is played with 15 players during the fall season.
Kicking off the semester with one less player to field a team is nerve-racking, but luckily six freshmen stepped up and joined the team. Over the course of the semester, the team has had to adjust immensely to face Saint Michaels College, Colby College and Stonehill College, some of the toughest competitors. Many players were taught two to three positions to help us succeed against teams with different strengths. One key thing to note is that Rugby may be a physical sport, but it is mostly based on mentality. This year the team created a mantra of being stronger together and through every challenge they have encountered, they were able to prove just that.
At the very beginning of their season, their first scheduled game against St. Anselm was postponed. To prepare the women, their coach Rosanna Downey challenged them to compete against the University of New England. That team was the reigning Tier II NIRA champion and a varsity team at their university. Bryant women’s rugby walked into that game with only 15 players and came out with a victory of 22-17. The game set the pace for the entire season.
The following weekend the team travelled to Saint Michaels College and once again won, this time 40-27. Saint Michael’s women worked hard during the second half and challenged Bryant to work on their fitness and defense. Luckily, Bryant was able to stand their ground and maintain their lead.
During the semester, Bryant Women’s Rugby continued to win against Colby College, Roger Williams University, UMass Lowell and Stonehill College. Although on paper the games appear to be, “easy,” wins, each game had its own challenges. Every weekday the team practices and takes each game as a learning experience. Despite doing countless drills on defense, offense, communication and fitness, there is always room for improvement. Each day the women on the team challenge themselves to do their best and challenge each other, which created a supportive team environment.
Last year the team made it to USA Rugby’s DII Fall Round of 16, placing as one of the top 16 teams in the nation. This weekend the team will be travelling to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to compete again in the Fall Round of 16. They will be competing at Vassar College and if they win this upcoming Saturday, they will advance to the next round on Sunday that determines the top eight teams.
Their success is due to the hard work behind the scenes, their supportive returning players, and the amazing rookies that have joined this season. The best part about this team is that almost every current player had never had any experience with the sport prior to learning about it at Bryant. Without the freshmen recruit’s participation and willingness to try this unique sport, Bryant women’s rugby would not be the team it has been this season.