It’s a dreary Thursday night at the UConn Depot Campus. It’s misty and damp – the kind of damp that would make anyone want to curl up and watch movies all night.
The UConn women’s rugby team will be doing no such thing.
Tonight, they have practice from 8 to 10 p.m. There is a big game Saturday morning against Boston University and they need to be ready.
Around 7:40, carloads of players start pulling up and making their way to the field. Players are talkative and cheery as they head over, with almost no regard for the weather. This meeting could easily be mistaken for a casual hangout between a bunch of friends, but it is far from that.
As soon as it’s 8:00, laps begin. The team heads off and goes straight from laps into drills. Right away, it’s evident that communication is a priority. Captains and leaders encourage and correct players constantly. There is never a quiet moment.
This season has brought new faces to the team with many players graduating last year and some players being brought up to compete on the more competitive of the two teams that play.
Back captain Allison Gorman discussed the changes but emphasized that they cannot be used as an excuse.
“This group, it’s definitely a young one,” Gorman said. “We graduated a lot of people, which people use all the time as an excuse, but I honestly think that this one has a lot of heart. I think that despite people being graduated, we’ve had players that have been on the team for a while and have maybe not gotten A side playing time, step up and fill the holes, which is what we need.”
Most of the players who joined the team have little to no previous experience playing rugby.
“Two people from every rookie class maybe played in high school, and even playing in high school isn’t a really great experience,” Gorman said.
Despite so many of the players learning the game for the first time in college, the squad has a stellar track record.
In 2015, the team won the USA Rugby D1 National Championship by defeating Air Force Academy 19-12. The following season, UConn advanced to the National Championship game but lost to Air Force 8-19. Last season, the team made it to the National Championship Playoffs.
“My goal is always to get to the Final Four and ultimately to be in the final,” UConn head coach Mark Jordan said. “That challenge has gotten steeper over the last couple of years because of some of the opposition.”
One of the players who was on the team in 2015, Christa Amoia, is now the pack captain for the team.
In both games and practice, it is evident that Amoia is a leader and motivator for the team. She credited her captains from the championship team for showing her the ropes.
“They definitely led by example,” Amoia said. “They were pretty serious about it. They did not mess around and they were never late. There was a level of intensity that they had which really stayed with me.”
The game against Boston University is a massive victory for UConn. Their A side squad crushed BU 83-7.
The next weekend, the team defeated Northeastern 43-7.
So far this season, the team is undefeated. It is evident that the team itself is close which is surely a benefit. Teammates consistently cheer each other on and provide praise for good plays.
“This team like most teams most years, is such a good family,” Jordan said. “They get on well, they draw on each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses.”
Rugby itself is a game that requires constant trust and reliance on teammates.
“It’s a very large team for a team game,” Jordan said. “There’s 15 players on the field at any one time and you are very reliant on the performance of the people around you. It’s not like any other sport where you can be isolated. It’s very much a team game.”
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.