Women’s Rugby Kicks Off Third Season as NCAA Varsity Program

BY: HEATHER KELLER

Sports Editor

The Sacred Heart University women’s rugby team began its fall season with two wins against Castleton University and Molloy College, both played at Park Avenue Field on Sept. 1 and Sept. 9, respectively.

Park Avenue Field was built through a partnership with the Sacred Heart University and Notre Dame Catholic High School athletic departments. The turf field is regulation for soccer and rugby. The Sacred Heart University men’s and women’s soccer teams and women’s rugby team utilize this field as their home.

“As a program, we really enjoy the new field, it’s regulation size for rugby, meaning it’s wider than most fields we play on so we have an advantage of conditioning and being more fit when we play other programs,” said head women’s rugby coach, Michelle Reed. “It’s an actual lined rugby field so there is a sense of pride to be able to walk on that field and to know that it’s our home field and it looks good.”

Having a space of their own to build the rugby program is valuable to the team and has proven to be an advantage already as the team starts the season with a 2-0 record.

“It’s nice to get wins under your belt so that once we move on to more competitive teams we kind of have a confidence about us, and know we already have experience working together in a competitive setting and not just practice,” said sophomore, Allie Rinaldi.

Working together and creating a bond between the returning players and the freshmen recruits proved to be vital to the early success for the program. The program added seven new athletes to the roster this fall in hopes of continuing expansion of the team.

“Being our second year of bringing in our own recruits, it’s fun to watch our freshmen really mesh with our program so well. We only have three upperclassmen so the freshmen and sophomore classes in the past two years have come together,” said Reed. “The underclassmen have brought a lot to the table in terms of rugby knowledge and athleticism, and you can see it on the field.”

The athletes have accepted the responsibility of making the freshmen feel welcome since the beginning of preseason. Returning athletes understand that these new athletes are the future of the program. There are a lot of talented freshmen and that has made the team excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for them.

“It’s been very easy to bring the freshmen in and make them a part of the team immediately. We focused on a lot of team bonding and getting to know everybody during preseason,” said sophomore, Kaylee Hale. “Basically, half of our team is brand new to Sacred Heart so if we’re able to know one another and have trust we’ll hopefully be able to perform well together.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to face Castleton and Molloy once again later this season, but the athletes have their sights set on their match against Bowdoin College on Sept. 23. The Pioneers were defeated 99-0 by the Polar Bears in Oct. 2016. The Pioneers are looking forward to a better match this season and are hoping for a better outcome.

“After the game, we had against them last year, we’re excited to play them again and hopefully beat them this time,” said Hale.

The Pioneers have a variety of goals this season, but their main goal is to execute team values and characters as a program.

“We value each human being and we invite diversity onto the team. We want people from all backgrounds and we’re accepting of that,” said Reed. “We know if we do that and we have that character built into our team culture, winning will come, but first we have to start with a team foundation.”

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