Women’s rugby continues undefeated year
Matt Gad – Sports Writer
After winning 39-10 at Providence last weekend, women’s rugby is undefeated heading into their final three regular-season matches for the fall season.
Prior to winning against Providence, they won matches with Northern Vermont, 36-17, and Merrimack, 93-0. The rest of their slate includes a home game with Middlebury College Saturday at 3 p.m. and then road matchups with Bentley University and Franklin Pierce University set for Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.
“These next three games are gonna be a test for how good our team is,” head coach Chris Carvalho said.
After their Franklin Pierce matchup they will play a one-day, single-elimination tournament in Canton, Mass. at the Irish Cultural Center.
“Last year we did fairly well. I think we won around five games,” senior co-captain Elanna Sanon said. “We went to the conference and lost against the University of Maine but we came in second place in the Continental Cup.”
This year the team scheduled a six-game regular season, with two Friday games, two Saturday games and two Sunday games.
They play out of Rugby Northeast’s Tier II and some of the conference’s schools, like Roger Williams and Saint Michael’s, are NCAA Division II sports in their respective athletic departments. Carvalho said Andrew Marullo, the university’s assistant director of student involvement and leadership development, made a pitch to the athletic department several years ago for having women’s rugby as one of the sports they took on but he came away unsuccessful.
At this time it is currently unclear if there will be a future effort to add men’s or women’s rugby to the school’s Division II offering, but Carvalho said he sees a “lot of growth” with rugby at the youth level.
“The sport is growing,” he said. “Before this I was a high school girls’ rugby coach and we sent a lot of kids to Division I schools like Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart.”
He is currently in his fourth season with the Black Attack, the team’s nickname.
Junior co-captain Kacie Gagner said the team has “the aspect of family” with the younger players being assigned someone who has been on the team for a few years.
“It’s like an older sibling type of relationship,” she said. “They’re someone you can go talk to if you have any problems.”
The team plays their home games at Jess Dow Field or at The Boulevard, located inside the Barnard Nature Center complex at West River Memorial Park in New Haven, where the men’s team also has some home games.
“We’ve been getting some more support from the school because we’re reaching out more,” Gagner said. “Even if we don’t know them we’ve had more people coming out to home games.”
She credited marketing opportunities like getting games advertised on the large video boards in the residence halls and Adanti Student Center as a way that has attracted some more people to the matches.
“It’s a tough spectator sport if you aren’t familiar with the rules,” Carvalho said. “The school community doesn’t know rugby because it’s more of a niche sport. It’s tough for an American audience to embrace a sport we aren’t technically good at on a world level.”
During the fall, the team plays 15-a side and in the spring they have both 15s and rugby sevens due to the fact that their roster size is at 42. Their spring season is more developmental, he said, and they have springtime games with schools such as UConn, Yale and Eastern Connecticut State.
Photo Credit: Karen Greenwald