Women’s club rugby team fosters sisterly bond

WKU Rugby players, left to right, Mackenzi Poehlein, Laura Amari, and Christina Bradley carryout a ruck. Collectively, they have played rugby for nearly 8 and a half years.

Mary Anne Andrews

For three WKU students, a team turned into a family.

Laura Amari, Christina Bradley and Mackenzi Poehlein came to WKU searching for friends and a place to belong. They found rugby and each other.

WKU’s club rugby team’s commitment holds strong on and off the field, as they refer to each other as family rather than simply teammates.

The friends spend more than six hours each week throwing, catching and tossing each other into the dirt.

Strongsville, Ohio, senior Laura Amari is president of the team.

Amari, 21, said she was bored when she transferred to WKU as a sophomore, so she searched for an activity where she could make friends.

“I moved seven and a half hours away from home and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “Rugby made it a lot better. I had only ever heard of rugby. I thought it sounded really interesting, lifting people up in the air.”

In high school, she played golf and was a diver on the swim team. Growing up playing baseball and football in a neighborhood of boys, Amari said she adjusted to team sports quickly, but rugby isn’t an easy sport to learn.

“You don’t understand it at all until your first game,” she said. “You will get yelled at.”

Despite being yelled at, Amari said the other players explained everything about rugby and she fell in love with the sport.

That teamwork is also alive off the field.

“I have a small family situation with them,” she said. “We support each other. We have family dinners. It’s been great.”

Amari said the team is always looking for new recruits. The team’s first game of the season is against UK on Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. at the intramural fields.

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, we have a position for you,” she said.

Corbin senior Christina Bradley is the team captain. Like Amari, Bradley came to WKU looking for a place to fit in.

“I was just walking around during MASTER Plan week and rugby looked cool and different,” she said. “I fell in love with it on my first day.”

Bradley, 22, said rugby is not just a sport but a culture.

    “The people I’ve met will be my best friends till the day I die,” she said. “You meet people from all over the nation and you have an immediate connection with them. I could go anywhere from New York to California and if I meet a ‘rugger,’ we have that mutual connection.”

    Last semester, the team won against the Nashville Women’s Rugby team at a cystic fibrosis tournament. Bradley said this was the highlight of her time on the team so far.

    “It showed how much hard work we had put in,” she said. “We really deserved to win.”

    Bradley said another thing that makes the team close is the learning process.

    “About 95 percent of the girls have never played before, so everyone starts together,” she said.

    Shelbyville sophomore Mackenzi Poehlein was also exposed to rugby at MASTER Plan when Bradley handed her a flyer last year.

    Poehlein, 19, broke her wrist in three places during her second game.

    “But, I didn’t quit,” she said. “I was hooked already. It’s an incredible high.”

    Poehlein also found a niche on the team that made her feel at home at WKU.

    “Coming to college is really difficult,” she said. “After my first week of practice, I just realized I had a ready-made family. That means a lot when you’re so far away from your own.”