The last time the Temple University women’s rugby club played in the USA Rugby Division II National Tournament, its current players were in middle school.
The Owls played their first National Tournament match in nearly a decade on Nov. 16, winning 37-14 against Roger Williams University.
“We had a really good defense, really amazing tackles, and our tries were really good as well,” said Katey Rogers, a sophomore prop. “We played much better in the first half than the second, but we were definitely the better team.”
Temple led 20-0 at halftime.
“I think definitely this year there’s a different attitude amongst the team,” second-year coach Samantha Hoegle said at practice on Nov. 15. “I think this year, we never got too comfortable. That was always something we struggled with, but this year we never got too comfortable with where we were at and always kept pushing to get better.”
Several members had never played rugby before joining the club.
Sophomore scrum-half Honor Burke wanted to play a club sport in college. She went to the rugby meeting as a freshman and decided to become part of the team because the group was “much more welcoming than all the people at the other meetings.” The team also had a “mini-camp” at the beginning of the season to explain the rules of the game.
Burke, an English major, said she picked up the sport quickly because she had previously played soccer and lacrosse.
“It’s everything you’ve ever wanted to do in soccer,” Burke said. “It is like a form of football, so you can just kick downfield. I was a goalie, so I have a lot of habits like that.”
Being allowed and encouraged to tackle opponents is exciting, she added.
Rogers played football in high school and tried rugby for the first time as a freshman.
Rogers, a political science and criminal justice major, is part of the starting lineup. She’s a “tighthead” prop, meaning she is in the middle of every scrum. Her experience playing football made the transition to rugby tackling easy, she said.
“In scrums, we push hard, tackle hard, we get there in rucks,” Rogers added. “We’re pretty much like the linemen of football, I’d say.”
The team didn’t expect to reach the National Tournament this year because many players were inexperienced, Rogers said.
“It’s wild, if you think about where you came from, not knowing how to do this at the beginning of September,” Hoegle said. “And then all of a sudden, you’re playing against the best teams in the country, and hanging with them and doing a really good job. It’s so cool and I’m so excited that they get to play against that kind of competition because it’s only going to make them even better.”
Club President Sierra Pullano, a junior environmental studies major, started playing rugby in Spring 2017.
“To see that like we’re a bunch of people who are like pretty inexperienced to come together, practice, put in the work and get to this point is awesome,” Pullano said. “It’s empowering.”
The team will travel to Poughkeepsie, New York, on Nov. 23 for the next round of the tournament. Their opponent will be determined during the week.