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November 8, 2007

   

Bryn Mawr-Haverford Women's Rugby Team
Wins Regional Championship, Heads to Nationals

The Horned Toads, the Bryn Mawr-Haverford women's rugby team, capped an undefeated fall season with a win over LaSalle in the Eastern Penn Rugby Union's championship match last Sunday. As EPRU Division III champs, the Toads now proceed to the National Small College Rugby Association Championship at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., the weekend of Nov. 17 and 18.

Rugby Team

"We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of this very special group of women and their coach," says Director of Athletics and Physical Education Kathleen Tierney. "We have a great deal of respect for their athletic achievements and for the many ways these women have shown leadership and humility."

The 19-10 score in the championship match with LaSalle was the closest of the season for the Toads, who spent most of the fall dominating their opponents in matches with 20-, 30- and even 40-point spreads. In fact, says coach Ronald Ziegler, the brief period during which LaSalle led by 10 points to seven marked the first time the Bi-Co team trailed its opponent all fall.

Ziegler attributes the team's success to its members' devotion to each other.

"These players will do anything for their teammates," he says. "There's a very strong bond. When you combine that with their heart, it makes for a powerful force."

The popularity of women's rugby as a club sport is soaring; USA Rugby, its governing body, estimates that 300-350 U.S. colleges have club teams. In 2002, the NCAA classified it as an "emerging sport." There are now two Division III NCAA teams, but the Toads, for now, are happy with the club structure, which allows for Bi-College cooperation.

Dawne Ballard
Co-Captain Dawne Ballard '08

"At one point, our entire backline was composed of Haverford players," says Co-Captain Dawne Ballard '08, a geology major with a concentration in environmental studies (her co-captain is Haverfordian Kendra Smythe '08). "We're really close to our Haverford teammates, and the relationships go way beyond the playing field."

Indeed, many players cite the culture of rugby — it has a reputation as a highly sociable sport — as an important part of its appeal.

"What keeps me interested is the camaraderie, not just with your teammates but with all rugby players," says Ziegler, who played rugby for about 15 years and has coached for 10. "There's a sense of mutual respect and cooperation that you rarely find in mainstream sports.

"I often say that I learned how to play rugby at the parties after the games," he continues. "When I was playing, it was traditional for both teams to get together for a celebration after the match. I can't tell you how many times a more-experienced player from the other team pulled me aside to give me some hints about what I could have done during the game to improve my play."

Ziegler worries that the convivial culture of rugby is disappearing, but Ballard says that the Toads are doing their part to maintain the tradition.

"We have a social after every game," she says, "sometimes here and sometimes at Haverford." From time to time, the Toads celebrate with the Haverford men's team, the Angry Young Newts, sharing rugby lore including traditional songs.

Ballard and her teammates also have the benefit of technological assistance in their appreciation of rugby traditions.

"We've been learning a lot about rugby from the Internet," she says. "It's so great to find other rugby teams on YouTube, singing the same songs we sing — even though they're on another continent!"

Athletic Director Tierney plans a send-off celebration in the Campus Center on Friday, Nov. 16, at 1:30 p.m., before the team boards the bus to Massachusetts.

The Toads will face Marist College of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on their first day of tournament play, Saturday, Nov. 17, at noon. Sunday will bring a match with either Stonehill or Canisius College of Buffalo, depending on the outcome of Saturday's games.

 

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