With a regular season that saw it go 10-0 and win the Pacific West Rugby Conference title, the Fresno State women’s rugby team is getting ready to face its biggest challenge in the Women’s Division II National Championship.
Being that it’s a club sport, the team is governed differently than sports from the athletics department. The club has a president, vice president and treasurer among other administrative positions, but still has a coach and an assistant coach much like a regular team.
Last season they finished 9-1, losing in the Elite Eight and missing out on the championship. But this year they were able to defeat Nevada in the conference championship and also defeated Stanford and Irvine in the regionals.
“We have all worked together to get to the National Championship, and this is where we are,” team captain Raquel Macias said. “[The National Championship] was a goal for the veterans, and our rookies also got behind us, and hopefully, we’ll win a National Championship in a few weeks.”
The team’s success has led it to being one of the fastest-growing clubs on campus. The teams averages over 35 members per year in a sport that has been played in America for decades but remains an acquired taste.
Macias got hooked on the sport since she got her first tackle. And although it is an unusual sport, she said it’s interesting and awesome.
Head coach Amber Cluff said that this group of players really loves rugby and that has made it easier for them to recruit new players to the club.
“The people that find that they like rugby fall in love with it, and rugby becomes their lives,” Cluff said. “When you play rugby, you get hooked, and that’s why so many recruits stick around and they love it.”
Senior Megan Walls talked about their undefeated season and how they’ve been blowing teams out of their way to a national title game.
“My first season playing, I think we won two games. So now it feels really good to be the ones blowing out other teams,” Walls said. “We’re undefeated, headed to a National Championship. This has been the farthest we ever been. It’s been a really good season.”
Fullback Regan Garner said the team has worked together as a unit in order to get every win, and to get where they are now.
“I love hanging out with everyone … there is no better group of people than this team,” Garner said. “Everyone supports everyone. Everyone contributes to every play and score, which makes this a great team to be part of.”
One of the toughest parts of the season, so far, has been the adjustments to injuries they have suffered in games. They’ve had to rely more on rookie player to come in and take the spot of veteran players who have been injured.
The team is preparing to travel to Fullerton in a few weeks to play in the championship series where they will compete against Tulane in the first game. If the Bulldogs are able to defeat Tulane they will move on to face the winner of the match between Clairmont and Salisbury.
“We’re a smaller size team so when we face bigger teams, that forces us to change our game plan.” Cuff said. “For us, the main challenge will be to adapt to a style of play we have no information about and we haven’t seen yet.”