Women’s rugby club finds strength in numbers

Elizabethtown senior, Brianna Anderson (right) and Elizabethtown senior Alex Harrison demonstrate how to tackle during their practice on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Anderson has been the president of WKU’s women’s rugby team for the past two and half years.

Emma Austin

The WKU women’s rugby club met on Tuesday night for one of their first practices of the year, starting off strong with 25 players –– 15 more girls than were on the team last year.

Elizabethtown senior Brianna Anderson, co-captain of the club, attributes this increase in number partially to the sport’s appearance in the Summer Olympics this year.

“We have a good core group of girls that came back, and we’re really excited about the freshmen and sophomore girls who joined,” Anderson said. “They seem to be very excited and dedicated already.”

Anderson transferred to WKU as a sophomore and joined the rugby team without any previous experience.

“It’s a lot more aggressive than many sports are –– especially women’s sports,” Anderson said. “So it’s a really big transition for a lot of girls.”

Although some girls come in with experience playing on high school rugby teams, Anderson said most new members have never played before.

Walton freshman Alli Chevalier recently joined the team with her twin, Tessa. Although neither sister had any rugby experience, they both played ice hockey together in high school. Chevalier said hockey and rugby have similar levels of physicality and aggression, which is part of why she enjoys each sport.

However, Chevalier said she would encourage girls who have never played an aggressive sport to still come check it out if they have an interest.

“They’ve been easing us into it,” she said. “They’re not, like, ‘tackle!’ on your first practice, which helps people who have never been aggressive.”

Anderson said she doesn’t let anyone on the field until they’ve learned how to properly tackle. She also encourages girls to go lift and run on their own, so the team can focus on improving skills during practice rather than conditioning.

In addition to practicing twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the team also competes in weekend games throughout the semester, playing against other college clubs and women’s teams. The team will also host special alumni games during this year’s homecoming weekend in celebration of their 20th year on campus.

Because of a player shortage in recent years, Anderson said they haven’t been able to play a full game of 15 players with just their girls. With the 25 members already committed to playing this semester, Anderson said she is anticipating the possibility of playing with full numbers at games during the year.

Anderson said she loves being a part of the rugby club because of how close she is to her teammates. The team spends a lot of time together outside of practice, she said, such as getting together for group dinners every other week.

“We’re a very inclusive team,” Anderson said. “We have girls from all sorts of backgrounds.”

Nashville junior Carissa Waller played rugby for a year in high school before she joined WKU’s team during her freshman year.

“When I first tried rugby I knew nothing about it, and really didn’t want to try it out,” Waller said. “After my first practice, I fell in love with it. After my first game, I was completely invested.”

Waller said her favorite part of the sport is the aggression involved, saying each game is like an adrenaline rush. She also loves the bond she has with her team, which she said is different from her past experiences with other sports.

“It’s like a family,” she said. “We’re just always there to support each other, so that’s really cool.”

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.