By MIKEY BARNES
What does Florida State University, the University of Connecticut and the University of Mary Washington all have in common? If you answered that all three won a national championship earlier this year, then you are correct. The UMW women’s rugby team raised its first ever National Championship banner earlier this summer, a feat only teams few and far between are capable of accomplishing.
The team started the season on a tear, going into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II tournament undefeated. Unfortunately, their bid for an undefeated season ended when they were beat by Appalachian State University. With their chances of advancing at a near non-existent following their defeat, the odds swung in the UMW ladies’ favor after Appalachian State declined their bid to advance to the semi-finals against Florida International University.
UMW’s women took this rejuvenation they received and went on to defeat the then undefeated FIU 24-17 and found themselves in their first Division II women’s rugby title game. Prior to this past season, the Lady Eagles found themselves finishing as high as third in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
The game took place on May 11 in Stanford, Calif. at Stanford University against the Cal State Northridge Matadors. The Matadors took an early lead, but the Lady Eagles put things together and never looked back on their way to a 36-22 debacle of Cal State.
The women’s rugby team of UMW helped strengthen the term Eagle Nation by providing the students and faculty of UMW an even stronger sense of pride.
“I felt honored to be part of such an amazing team,” said sophomore Briana Bahr. “None of it felt real until we actually stood on the field at Stanford University.”
The 2013-14 school year was one that provided a number of firsts for the UMW athletic department. Earlier in the school year, many could not have imagined the UMW athletic department hiring Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green, but that was just the beginning of a year for the record books.
The current Director of Athletic Facilities and former head men’s basketball coach Rod Wood led the men’s basketball team on a historic run last year as they appeared in their second ever NCAA tournament and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight round. Following up the men’s basketball team’s run was the men’s lacrosse team, who found themselves ranked in the top 25 for the latter part of the season. The team finished their season with their first NCAA tournament berth.
The women’s rugby team will begin their title defense against James Madison University on September 13.
“We feel confident that with a lot of practice, hard work and dedication we can make it back this year,” said sophomore Maggie Tuite. “We know that with this big win under our belts, other teams will be looking at us as the ones to beat. We know it will be a challenge, but we will go in confident in ourselves and our team as a whole with our coaches to keep us grounded.”