Two days after the fifth annual New Paltz Women’s Rugby Ruckfest Tournament, third-year player Rebeca Baker looked down at mirrored bruises adorning the insides of her thighs absentmindedly. The army veteran said the bruises were nothing compared to the other injuries she sustained on April 15.
“I had to get my sternum X-rayed,” Baker said. “It’s OK now, but I’m just watching practice today because it’s still banged up. That’s rugby though, you know?”
After the team’s home tournament this past Saturday, which the Lady Hawks finished off with a 1-2 record on the day, the team is preparing for its remaining two tournaments left in the spring 2012 season. The tournament saw competitors such as SUNY Albany and Hofstra University and showed teams where they currently stand against the competition.
Fourth-year Captain Jen Herman said the team practiced five to six times a week to prepare for Ruckfest. The team only regained access to their field recently, but were still able to find other areas to prepare.
“We’ve been practicing in various places in New Paltz until our field was ‘opened’ after spring break,” Herman said.
Second-year player Kerry Fields said the team also prepared for the tournament by bonding with one another and mentally preparing themselves. Fields said the team did well, knowing they had home field advantage and were playing for family, friends and alumni players.
“I think we all go in with high expectations because we know what we’re capable of,” Fields said. “I think the seniors go in with higher expectations though because it’s their last one and they really want to win.”
While rugby is a high-contact, physical sport, the team also stresses the importance of mental toughness. Being the home team adds more pressure to succeed, but served to the Hawks’ advantage when playing against their opponents, Herman said.
“Being a home tournament, and our fifth year having Ruckfest there was a lot of pressure to make it run well and to win,” Herman said. “There was a lot of pressure on us but we took that pressure onto the field and gave it to all the competition that stepped against us.”
The Hawks displayed a physical dominance over their opponents at Ruckfest, though there were some minor setbacks. The team’s field had little grass, and the dust produced by the field served to disadvantage the Hawks.
“You could see no care has been taken to our field. It’s a dust bowl,” Herman said. “In fact, it’s so terrible one of our starters can’t practice all week because she has an infection in her eye from playing on our field all day that has little grass on it.”
But despite the dust and two losses the Hawks faced in the last couple of minutes and by mere points, the matches showed a team that was better than their opponents. Herman said the Hawks missed kicks the other teams were able to make, but the team knows they played better, which is the important thing.
Baker said while the team didn’t win, it was the best they have played so far this spring, and they will take their connection into the two upcoming tournaments.
“Playing at home creates more camaraderie and we really capitalized on how much we were connecting with one another,” Baker said. “It brought us together as a team, which is going to be very valuable.”
The team is now focusing their energy on preparing for the ‘Beast of the East Tournament’ in Rhode Island and the Scrumstock Tournament in Binghamton. The team lost to SUNY Binghamton in their last match of the tournament, and is looking forward to a rematch against their rival SUNY school.
“It’s round two for us for what was a rather physical game,” Fields said. “They played a dirty game with high tackling and we didn’t stoop to their level.”
For Herman, ‘Beast of the East’ is occupying all of the Lady Hawks’ attention for now, but the desire and anxiousness to compete against Binghamton again is presently on the team’s mind.
“We played as a team throughout every game and that heart is what will be taking to Rhode Island this weekend,” Herman said. “And redemption is what we will get at Binghamton the weekend after.”