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Women’s rugby team makes school history

Melissa Flanagan | Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This year, the 17 students on Notre Dame’s first-ever women’s rugby club team are making school history and starting a successful program with an 84-0 win already under their belts.

The team at Notre Dame formed during the 2009-10 school year, but began competing in matches this fall. Priscilla Nyankson, a sophomore who joined the team last year, said it has been a great experience so far.

“We’re making Notre Dame history,” Nyankson said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve done here as of yet. A lot of people coming here aren’t going to be varsity athletes, but with rugby I get to play a sport and be part of a team.”

After a loss in their first scrimmage against Eastern Illinois University, the team had two successive wins, including the 84-0 win Saturday over Northwestern University.

“I noticed that we made a lot of mistakes in the scrimmage because we didn’t know a lot of the rules,” Nyankson said, “but with that we were able to learn a lot.”

Learning the rules of the game was something almost all of the girls went through together, Nyankson said. Although everyone on the team was an athlete in high school, only two or three had ever played rugby before.

“It was definitely difficult for everybody. We were learning something totally new,” Nyankson said. “It was kind of frustrating in the beginning.”

Despite these difficulties, Nyankson was hooked on the sport ever since she began last year.

“It was super exciting,” Nyankson said. “Even waking up at 6:30 in the morning last year for practice, yeah you kind of cry about it, but after you feel great about it. We really bonded as a team and it was really nice to be a part of something like that.”

Last year the team was much larger, with around 30 members. Sophomore returning member Veronica Ryan said many girls were intimidated by the roughness when they began practicing the game as a contact sport.

“We couldn’t play contact until the very end of the year, so there were a lot of girls who showed up then realized that they didn’t like the contact part of the sport,” Ryan said.

Because they lost some players in the spring, the team hopes to recruit throughout the season. Nyankson said no experience is needed and everyone is encouraged to try it.

“We’re absolutely looking for people of all ages to join,” Nyankson said. “None of us knew how to play. We can teach you everything you need to know.”

The team meets Monday through Friday, with two days of contact practice, two days of weight lifting and one day of practicing plays and game-like situations. They play matches Saturdays on McGlinn Fields.

The team has two home matches and two away matches remaining this season. The next home match is against DePaul University on Oct. 9 at 9 a.m.

Once the official season ends, the team will practice for the rest of the year.

Senior player Danielle Tan said that the team has high hopes for the future.

“Notre Dame is so big on tradition, and we’re really hoping that the team becomes a permanent part of the tradition here,” Tan said.