By KYRA KETCH
This year, University of Mary Washington was one of six sites chosen to host 32 collegiate programs throughout the month of April. This past weekend, four teams, including UMW’s women’s rugby team, were welcomed to the rugby grounds in Fredericksburg for the East Regional, with the winners advancing to the Spring National Championship at UC Davis April 23 to 24.
Jaclyn Sherman, president of the UMW women’s rugby team, shared how the team has been preparing for the tournament both on and off the pitch. “We lost a lot of seniors last year and even coming into this semester, we had fewer people on our roster than we normally do,” Sherman said.
“Having lost to Salisbury at the end of last semester in order to win the conference, we knew we had a lot of work to do this semester in order to get an at large bid to nationals. The team started having a lot of bonding events and team dinners in order to get to know each other more. When we found out that we had the bid and that we would be hosting the first round of nationals, the team was ecstatic.”
After a season of hard work the team was ready for the Round of 16 against the University of South Carolina. On Saturday April 9, their efforts came to fruition.
“From the minute that first whistle blew, our team meshed so well,” Sherman said. “There was cohesion between forwards and backs and complete domination in possession. We played well throughout the match, but USC was able to match every try that we scored. Throughout the match, we never gave up and our intensity stayed high and because of this, we were able to take a slight lead which was able to hold out and allow us to win the match.”
The very next day the team walked back onto their home pitch to battle their rival, Salisbury, in the Round of Eight.
“Everyone wanted redemption from losing to them in the fall, but we knew they would be a difficult team. We came out strong and we able to score first, but after that, Salisbury was just the better team,” Sherman said.
Junior Lanieta Budi, who plays forward, illustrated the perseverance and good sportsmanship it takes to be a UMW rugger. “Salisbury is our biggest rival,” Budi said. “Losing to them was tough. They deserve it though, and I wish them the best of luck as they advance in the tournament.”
Sherman shared that although the loss was a disappointing one, it has helped the team learn and grow from their mistakes. This loss is far from a setback for UMW women’s rugby.
Senior Maddy Ernesto has been a part of the UMW women’s rugby team since her freshman year. The outside center player displayed nothing but pride for her team. “We made it farther than we have since our National Championship win in 2014, and that is something that we are all very proud of. This accomplishment would not have been achieved without the hard work of all the players who participated both in the fall and spring seasons,” Ernesto said.
The team is already setting goals and training for next season. “My goal is to advance further in Nationals for next year and reclaim the conference title for Mary Washington. The round of four and two is usually held in California. I’d love for our teammates to go back. Plus, I want to soak up the Californian sun,” Budi said.
Budi shared that this is “a group of supportive girls that I’m glad to call not only my friends but my family.”
“In rugby you are literally laying your body on the line for your teammates so it is crucial to have strong trust between everyone. That is an aspect I believe is unique to rugby and one that Mary Wash Women’s Rugby has worked hard to maintain,” Ernesto said.