Women’s rugby alumni return to UMW, win homecoming game
By JOSHUA STALEY
Homecoming has and always will be an important time of year for both current students and alumni. The camaraderie and spectacle as Mary Washington students and alum converge on the rugby fields to watch the men face off against a grueling opposite never seems to get old. However, while supporters gear up for the men’s match, the UMW women’s rugby team takes a different approach when it comes to their homecoming game. Rather than facing off against another school, our lady ruggers go head-to-head with players of the past.
“I love seeing all the alumni who come back, both the ones I played with and the ones who graduated before I started playing. It is a testament to the depth of the program that we will have alums coming back to play who graduated ten plus years ago,” said senior math and international affairs major Gail Crunkhorn.
Since the homecoming of 2005, women’s rugby plays their annual alumni game, as Mary Washington hosts alumni from all ages. The idea was originally stolen from the men’s team, as women’s rugby’s own head coach played for Mother’s Rugby during his time attending UMW.
Unfortunately, the men no longer host an alumni game, opting to play against another school during homecoming instead. 13 years ago, after a playful debate about who could win a game, Coach Kabza decided to bring back the old tradition with his women’s team.
According to Kabza, UMW has seen upward of 50 ex-players return to the pitch at any given game. Not all alumni play, but rather use this time as an opportunity to support their alma mater and the sports program they so passionately played for during their time at UMW.
“The program is so special, [the alumni] want to come back and see their friends again,” says Kabza.
Amazingly, in the 13 years since this tradition began, the alumni have won 12 times. The only game won by current students was in the fall of 2013. This team was the 2014 second division women’s rugby national champions.
This year’s game ran a little differently, as the alumni who returned and were willing to play did not equal the required number of players per team. As a result, each quarter of the game, current students would switch sides and compete with the alumni, going up against their own teammates.
Even though these current students wanted their own team to win, they played as well as they would have against any other opponent. The alumni and current player mix eventually won the game with a final score of 69-5 in the alumni’s favor.
“Homecoming is a great experience because you get to see all of the former players and friends since they graduated. The alumni game is a very competitive atmosphere, but with that comes the ability to learn from them and have a great time while doing it,” said sophomore biology major Alexie Burleson.
While the alumni game can be competitive and high-stakes, both teams tend to bond over mutual respect and passion for the sport. These are people who care deeply for their sport and their team and in the end, regardless of who wins, the friends they make on the field are friends they will have for life. In fact, graduate Mary Wash Women’s Rugby players have a motto: “I am, and always will be, a Mary Wash rugger.”