Starting the season ranked 14th in the nation, the SUNY New Paltz’s Women’s Rugby team won their first game against Hofstra University after a rocky beginning.
The field was flooded by the waters of Hurricane Irene in August. Then the team’s head coach John Chewens, who is a member of the Army Reserves, was activated to help with the hurricane relief efforts. On top of it all, their season started two weeks earlier than usual. Despite these factors, the team did not lose faith.
“We work as a unit and even though we didn’t have coaches there are still three captains who all come and control practice,” fourth-year team captain Kathryn Wallace said. “There are girls on the field who know exactly what they are doing and they can help the younger girls. It’s all just about teamwork honestly.”
Chewens showed his commitment to the team even when he was away helping with hurricane relief.
“I would continue to talk with the captains as the days progressed to the first game,” Chewens said. “The entire team handled the situation very well. The leadership of all our veterans has helped me out.”
The team made do with their situation and continued to have practice in Hasbrouck Park while their field was flooded. While referring to their first game against Hofstra, captain Jen Herman said, “We had a ton of people come out and have to go in, some who had never played in an A-side game before, but we still held it 44-0.” Their second game against Stony Brook was tied 3-3.
Their wins are a product of long practices and team unity. The girls attend three 7 a.m. conditioning practices per week, along with regular practices five times per week.
“Playing rugby is a lifestyle and you would do anything for the girls you play with,” Wallace said.
Coaches Chewens and Maureen O’Loughlin agree that a big part of their past and future accomplishments are bringing the new girls on the team up to skill and by making sure that the team continues to flourish. It is clear that the captains and more seasoned players are there to help the new players reach their full potential.
Even though Hurricane Irene got in the way of the beginning of the season, the girls are used to making adjustments caused by the injuries such a rough sport causes, as well as school-set limitations from the school.
“As a club we are denied access to trainers even though it is a full contact sport,” Herman said.
The response from the Athletic department is that they are only a club team.
“It is important that the school recognizes the program and views it as a strong woman’s sport,” Alumni and Coach O’Loughlin said.
Herman said that there are different goals for every game.
“Right now the focus is on defense and we want to come together as a team and do as well as we did last semester,” said Herman.
Chewens creates individual goals for each player so that they are able to grow individually and help the team. He said he hopes that they will win the Met Union Championship and once again be nationally ranked.
“Our goals ultimately are to have a winning semester” O’Loughlin said.