By SHYAN MURPHY
Each year, the University of Mary Washington gains new recruits from all over for their sports programs. UMW is primarily a Division III school with a variety of sports options offered including varsity, club, and team sports. Two of the team sports that meet a higher division ranking than the varsity teams are the UMW men’s and women’s rugby teams, ranking at Division I and Division II respectively. Although not all players chose UMW specifically for the rugby team, they are proud of their decision to join the team. Three players from each team were asked which games they are looking forward to playing the most, which aspect of playing rugby at UMW is their favorite, and what made them choose UMW and its rugby program over their other prospective schools. The rugby players have shown excitement across the board for the upcoming season, and many players most look forward to the challenging matches.
“I always look forward to the games that are going to be close,” said sophomore Aaron Bensink. “When we play teams such as James Madison, Virginia Tech, and Mount St. Mary’s we know it’s going to be a good contest.” The other players on the team agree that James Madison is a big match.
Junior Wyatt Priddy stated, “The game I have marked on my calendar this year is JMU. They have been the strongest team in the conference and I look forward to contending with them this year.” Each season brings new games and recruits, but the positive attitudes from members of the team stay constant.
Sophomore Tom Williams, an athlete who is not only new to UMW’s rugby team, but to North America as well, mentioned, “I’m really looking forward to all our games this year, especially being an international I am really excited to play everyone in this league and see what this division has to offer.”
Along with the men’s team, the women’s team hosts many individuals eager to take on the new season with high hopes.
Sophomore Aryanna McClendon and junior Temi Ogungbade both claim that they are looking forward to every game this season holds.
On the other hand the team’s captain, Jackie Sherman, states, “I’m most looking forward to our match against ODU. We went 1-1 with them last year and they’re always good competition.” While these individuals are all looking forward to this year as athletes, they are also ecstatic for further bonding with their teammates, old and new.
McClendon also said, “if I had to choose my favorite thing about playing for UMW’s women’s rugby team, it would probably be the girls, hands down.” The athletes claim their favorite aspect of joining the rugby teams are the bonding experiences that come along with playing their beloved sport.
When referencing her teammates, Ogungbade said, “my absolute favorite thing about rugby and this team is that I never feel alone on the pitch, on campus, and in my life.” In correlation with the women’s team, the men playing for UMW share a similar experience with their teammates. Many members of the men’s team referenced the relationship between themselves and their teammates as a brotherhood.
When asked about his favorite aspect of rugby at UMW, Priddy said, “my favorite aspect of the team is the brotherhood. When I joined the rugby team I was immediately accepted and it gave me a sense of camaraderie,” also claiming this feeling of acceptance is what has led him to continue playing rugby for the rest of his college career.
The theme of brotherhood was also present when Williams was asked about his connection to rugby as a sport, specifically at UMW. “I’ve played all over the world and no matter where I’ve been the rugby culture/brotherhood stays the same.” It is apparent that the people playing this sport become more than just a team, but a family as well. Another common theme among the UMW rugby players is a sense of self growth as the seasons go on.
Bensink claimed, “I never dread playing a game, every weekend is an opportunity to get better.” This shows true perseverance as a player and a person. The eagerness to grow as a player and learn from mistakes is a valuable trait to have as an athlete.
Ogungbade has a similar view regarding playing rugby. “Each game you play, you learn more about yourself as a player and as a teammate, and you begin to see yourself grow more and more as the year goes on.”