Rugby team prepares to defend national title against Providence

Even though the women’s rugby team will be competing in its second straight national championship game this weekend, captain Vanesha McGee said the Owls do not feel like seasoned veterans this time around.

“I’m not really sure how it feels different,” McGee said. “I guess I’ll find out when we play.”

The Owls advanced through the round of eight and the semifinals two weekends ago to earn Saturday’s date at Stanford. They take on Providence as the Owls look to defend last year’s Division II National Championship.

The Owls, led by coach Lisa Rosen and assistants Angie Marfisi and Kim Magrini, advanced to the national final through a league system that is unlike any other in collegiate sports. In the fall, the team won the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union championship, allowing it to participate in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union. In the MARFU Tournament, the Owls beat Richmond, Maryland, and Mary Washington, giving them a chance to participate in the national tournament as MARFU Champions.

Now, the Owls stand just 60 minutes away from another championship, with only Providence in their way.

The Friars are no strangers to Temple. Last year, the Owls beat them, 17-7, to win the program’s first championship. This year, the Owls only saw them once from the sidelines, in the Friars’ semifinal game against Mary Washington last week.

“We didn’t exchange game film or anything,” McGee said. “I thought we should definitely beat them.”

Saturday’s game will end a season for which the team has been training since February. The Owls have practiced indoors, outdoors, and even in the pool at Pearson Hall. According to McGee, the team’s strongest facet has been their training, which has transformed them from a group of individuals to a team.

“We have more of a team aspect, everyone plays on the same level,” McGee said. “We’re not just 15 players. Everybody’s on the same team.”

As a junior captain and the national championship game’s Most Valuable Player in 2004, McGee has accomplished a lot as an Owl. But her only goal now is winning another Division II National Championship, she said.

“[Providence] is going to be stronger,” McGee said. “We’ll be having a team meeting to talk about it in the next couple of weeks.”

Christopher Reber can be reached at chris.reber@temple.edu.

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