Coming into the season with only five veteran players, the Augustana women’s rugby team is in a rebuilding chapter.
Luckily, the team has many pieces for the puzzle, as it mustered between 12 to 14 new players during its recruiting campaign early this year, according to junior hooker and club treasurer Tiffany Miller.
Katie Jacobs, senior forward and former coach of the team, said it is the largest pool of new players she’s seen.
“The last two years, we’ve been scratching for players,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been doing anything we can think of to get more people.”
The team is approaching the same number of players it had during Jacobs’ freshman year when it could play with a traditional 15 players. The team has been playing sevens rugby, a modified and slimmed version of the sport with only a total of 14 players on the field.
Because the team is a club sport, it’s difficult to know exactly how many players the team has every week, Miller said, but she thinks it is nearing 15 players.
No matter the numbers, Marlee Nicholson, club president and senior scrum-half, said the new players are a valuable asset.
In its first tournament of the year against the University of South Dakota on Sept. 15, Augustana scored only two tries in two games, dropping both games. But both tries came from rookie players.
“We only had two veterans there that day,” Nicholson said. “So for the fact that it was most our players’ first time on the rugby field, it wasn’t too bad.”
Veteran players “stormed the dorms” at the beginning of the academic year and knocked on every female freshman’s door.
In the process, the players met freshman Ruby Power.
Power followed her father’s footsteps by joining the team. Her father was born and raised in New Zealand and played rugby throughout his childhood.
Power was near a rugby club her whole life, but never had time to join.
“When I found out there was a club here I said, ‘Well, why not?’” Power said.
Power’s father came to her first game on Saturday, Sept. 22, when Augustana faced off against South Dakota State University and saw her take a hard hit to the chin.
“A girl’s head snapped back and smacked me in my chin,” Power said. “But, hey, you can’t complain about the injuries.”
The team also lost to SDSU, but it does not pay attention to the losses, Eli Schulte, sophomore wing, coach and vice-president of the team, said. Players are more concerned about safety and having fun than winning.
“If we lose, at least we got to play,” Schulte said.
Next up, members of the club will face off against Wayne State College at the Prairie States All-Stars invitational at Tompkins Rugby Park in Wayne, Nebraska.
WSC is one of the most talented teams in the conference, mainly because of its sheer depth. It has almost 30 recruited players compared to Augustana’s 10-15 volunteer players, Nicholson said.
Only selected members from teams in South Dakota, Western Minnesota, Northwest Iowa and Northeast Nebraska comprising the Prairie States Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference may attend the invitational.
Senior forward Jacobs said there is no talk of rugby becoming a varsity sport at the moment, as becoming a varsity sport would give the team more resources and better recognition but it would affect its mentality.
While its home field in Marion Park is under construction, the team will not have any home games this season.