It’s a hard-knock life, but somebody’s got to do it.
That somebody is the UC Davis women’s rugby team. In fact, the Aggies have had some recent national success, and have been taking names in the process.
In only 10 years of existence, the UC Davis women’s rugby club, the youngest program in the Northern California Rugby Football Union, has made it to the Sweet 16 three different times, including a trip to the Final Four in 2007 and an Elite Eight bid in 2008.
“It is a pretty big deal because there is no NCAA women’s rugby right now, so the level that we are playing at is the highest level for college women to play at,“ sophomore Maggie Mello said.
But this is not a team of purely rugby players.
“I played three sports in high school. Last year I came in as a freshman and I was on the UC Rowing team, which was ICAA,” sophomore Delaney Chapman said. “I decided not to continue rowing but I had heard about how competitive the rugby team was and that they were a team that had made it to the Final Four the previous year.“
And competitive they were omit this season. The Aggies were 5-2 overall with a 4-1 post in league while playing against premier teams such as Stanford, Reno, Chico State, California and Humboldt State.
“We play in the toughest division in the country,” head coach Corey Pope said.
They succeed in it, too. Stanford, this year’s national champion, only lost one game this entire season – courtesy of UC Davis.
But to obtain the success that the Aggies have had recently, a lot of work has been put in.
“My biggest thing with rugby is that we put in so much together,” senior Rebecca Bruggman said. “We are out on the field every night. We have meetings all the time. We have games every weekend. We traveled five hours roundtrip to make it to Reno, and the next morning we woke up and did a fundraiser at 5 a.m. in the morning. We are a committed team and we are a family. We put so much of ourselves into it.“
This tight-knit, committed team is constantly looking for new members.
“We accept women of all sizes, all different backgrounds,” said sophomore Thania Balcorta. “We need tiny little girls. We need big tall girls. We need sturdier girls. We accept girls of all shapes. Other sports are very exclusive – but rugby – we accept everybody and anyone.“
The team holds non-contact touch rugby on the Russell Intramural Field on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. New players are urged to bring cleats and comfortable running shoes –but no experience is necessary, as demonstrated by sophomore Julia Buchfuhrer.
“I came on as a rookie knowing absolutely nothing about rugby and they just basically took me in,” said Buchfuhrer. “[They] taught me everything from the basics to what a scrum is and all these different things. I was actually able to become starting A-side player, which I think is just amazing that someone can come into this sport knowing nothing and just get to a level where you are playing nationally at such a high competitive level. That’s one thing I really like about this sport.“
“I feel women can play rugby from all different backgrounds,” Balcorta said. “I think it’s just the desire to just go out there, get a group of girls who are really cool to hang out with and just exercise. Tackling is an additional thing that is just so much fun.“
While the high-camaraderie team is having a great season, there will be plenty of turnover from this year to next. Fourteen seniors – nearly half the squad – will be departing this year. Yet, the close bunch is still optimistic about the future of the team.
“I am just hoping that next year we build a new family,” Bruggman said.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.