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Friday, June 21, 2024

Women’s rugby sets eyes on Final Four

Typically when imagining an undefeated Division I sport, one assumes players must have been recruited with a full-ride scholarship. But the UC Davis Women’s Club Rugby team follows a different approach. Their key to success is determination, teamwork and a genuine love for the sport.

Those characteristics have brought the team one step closer to their goal: The Final Four.

On April 29, the UC Davis Women’s Club Rugby team will leave Davis to travel to Bowling Green, Ohio to compete in the Rugby Championship playoffs, commonly known as “The Sweet 16,” making it the second year in a row the Aggies have made it to the playoffs. If they win both of their games, they will be able to advance to the Final Four and have a shot at the national title.

Since its establishment in 1997, the club team has been a force to be reckoned with. The Aggies are currently a Division I team affiliated with the Northern California Rugby Football Union. Last season, the team went undefeated and earned the title of league champions for the first time in history.

But getting there was not an easy feat. The team made it to the league championships last year, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to UCLA.

“[That loss] was a major disappointment for our team so we are really working on making it farther this year,” said Robyn Mohr, senior exercise biology major and president of the club, in an e-mail interview.

That mentality seems to be working. Last weekend, the Aggies had a tough battle competing in the first round of playoffs at Stanford, but came out on top. After losing to Brigham Young University, ranked in the top-eight in the nation, the Aggies beat Chico State, advancing to the Sweet 16.

Mohr said that the Aggies played well for the first half of the game. But by the end of the second half, the game was up in the air and the Aggies ended up winning by only two points

“The game would have been tied if Chico had made their final conversion. It was pretty hard to be on the field for those last few minutes because the score was so close,” Mohr said.

But the Aggies used their strength and endurance they have been working on all season. They were able to hold on to their victory after Chico threw everything they had at them.

“Back-to-back games of rugby are incredibly difficult. The team deserves kudos for holding it together and clawing out a victory,” said coach Gary Gordon.

The team members agreed that it is a genuine love for the sport and the closeness of the teammates that makes them such a success.

“I cannot imagine having a better team to be on at Davis. A great way to release stress is to just get out there, run around and tackle people. And we have a great group of girls. There’s something about this sport that attracts really down-to-earth people,” said Liz White, senior environmental policy and planning major and forwards captain.

The club team, which is composed of about 25 to 30 girls, practices together three days per week and, in order to prepare for the upcoming playoffs, has been holding extra conditioning practices in the mornings. One of the unique aspects of the team is that even though the team technically has both A and B squads, all the girls practice together. Along with helping team camaraderie, this allows any player who has improved throughout the season to make the A team starting lineup.

As the team gears up for next weekend, there is much anticipation. The Aggies will play the University of Virginia (UVA) on Friday, and if they win will play either Michigan State University or Brown University the following Sunday.

“We have never played [UVA], so I am a bit nervous going in. However, I have a lot of confidence in our team. I think if we play our game there is no reason we won’t make it,” Mohr said.

Gordon has no doubts that the Aggies can make it all the way.

“We head to the Sweet 16 with a bit of momentum and confidence that we can play with the best teams in the nation. [We] posses the talent and skill to make it to the Final Four. We just need some intense effort and focused attitude to push us over the top,” Gordon said.

The UC Davis Women’s Rugby team can be followed on the Campus Recreation web site as well as on the team’s official web site at womensrugby.ucdavis.edu.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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