UC Davis club rugby teams make it to National Championships

SOPHIE LONSKY / COURTESY

UC Davis women’s club rugby back-to-back national champions, men’s rugby falls to Notre Dame College

The UC Davis club rugby teams have once again impressed on the national stage, this time at the Club Rugby National Championships in Marietta, Ga. on May 6. The women’s rugby team are now back-to-back champions after winning the College Women’s Division I Spring Championships against Notre Dame College. The men’s rugby team entered the competition  looking for a three-peat championship, but ultimately walked away with second place for Division I-AA championship against Notre Dame College.

The women’s rugby team beat the Notre Dame College Falcons 27-19. In the final seconds of the game, the Aggies narrowly added another try to cement the win. Captain Sydnee Watanabe, a fifth-year civil engineering major, was named the Most Valuable Player and credits their victory to the support from home, the team’s alumni and the UC Davis community.

“It was so cool being in Georgia,” Watanabe said. “[…] Being away from home, it was just so cool. We have a Facebook page and it was just exploding with people and they were so excited and everyone was posting videos and Snapchats. It was just really cool to have that support from home.”

The men’s rugby team, however, fell to the Falcons 26-13. The Aggies trailed behind the Falcons the entire game, unable to take the lead.

“Obviously coming off the past two years, we’ve been pretty successful,” said Harrison Morrow, team captain and a third-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major. “The hard part about that is not getting complacent and keeping the drive and wanting to continue to improve, as well as getting back to where we have been. You learn the most from the losses.”

Both rugby teams are sport club teams, meaning they are managed by the athletes themselves. They also each participate in both the 7s and 15s seasons, which are two different forms of rugby. Both programs include an A-side and a B-side team and practice three times per week, not including conditioning workouts. Each team is open to players of all skill levels.

“We accept anyone with an interest,” Morrow said. “That being said, we live in Northern California, so there’re a lot of kids who come in and know a little bit about rugby and a lot of kids who are actually really good players. We started three freshmen this year, […] like one of the freshmen that started for us had never played before. He just fell in love with rugby.”

Watanabe, who discovered rugby her sophomore year at The BUZZ, learned everything she knows from fall training and skill camps hosted by the team.

“In the Fall Quarter, we really focus on teaching the new players how to play rugby,” Watanabe said. “So we go over the basics again: what rugby is, how to pass, how to tackle safely, how to fall safely. It’s a good refresher for the returning players. So every year, they start from the bottom up again.”

Coming off a win in the 15s Championships, the women’s rugby team will be playing for the 7s National Championship in Colorado in a few weeks.

“I think rugby has been the best thing I’ve done in college,” Watanabe said. “It’s probably why I’m still in college, to be honest. It’s an amazing sport that changes the way you think about everything. And you meet these amazing girls who become like your family.”

The men’s rugby team is already looking forward to next season and is hoping to move up from Division I-AA to Division I-A, which hosts club rugby powerhouses like UC Berkeley and Stanford. In order to prepare, the Aggies plan to challenge themselves early on in the season.

“We play a lot of teams that are a lot better than us in pre-season,” Morrow said. “So we lose a lot of games in the pre-season, but that’s how you learn. […] We’re going to have to make some adjustments as a team. We’re going to try and increase commitment and increase our numbers, as well. That’s how you build for the future.”

Both teams are hoping to continue building their programs in the future.

“I think everyone is just kind of stoked and they’re really excited for next year,” Watanabe said. “They’re like, we gotta keep it going.”

 

Written by: Liz Jacobson — sports@theaggie.org