The Owls will face the Arizona Wildcats on April 17 in Florida.
Moira Somerdyk started playing rugby her freshman year of high school. As soon as she stepped onto the field, she said she “just felt like that was the right sport for me.”
Now, the senior co-captain is playing for the No. 1-seeded Temple women’s rugby team. The Owls earned that No. 1 seed after they defeated La Salle, 15-10, in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union Championship on March 28.
“Going into the spring semester, we knew we had to win every game to go to Nationals in California,” senior wing player Korin Tangtrakul said. “Winning [the] No. 1 seed is still mind-boggling to me.”
Temple will play the University of Arizona on April 17 in Florida. If the Owls win that game, they will face the winner of Rutgers versus Gustavus Adolphus in the second round.
“We have to win those two games in order to make it [to the National Championship] in California,” coach Owen Jones said.
Jones said the Temple women’s rugby team won the National Championship back in 2004. Like this year’s squad, that group of Owls was led by seniors, too.
“It’s a very senior-heavy team, so the girls have been playing together and have been comfortable with each other for four years,” Jones said. “Our goal was to make it to the spring playoffs. I’m really proud of all the hard work and determination that players have come into this season with and have continued with throughout this season.”
Jones and co-coach Richard Casey stepped in last year after the prior coach left in 2005. Without their help, the Owls would still be coachless. This year, they decided to become fulltime coaches, and their dedication to the team has paid off with results on the field.
Prior to the La Salle game, the Owls faced off against William & Mary in Wilmington, Del. That game, a 42-0 win for Temple, ended up being the team’s easiest win this season.
“It was the best game we ever played against a really competitive team,” Tangtrakul said. “We never played them before, and we were prepared, and we knew what we were doing.”
Somerdyk said the team entered the game expecting to work hard and ended up putting on a game she never saw Temple women’s rugby play before. Somerdyk described it as a perfect match.
“You have to go into a match thinking that the other team is going to be just as you are,” Somerdyk said. “Everyone went in with the idea that we really could lose, and no one wanted that to happen. Everyone wants their season to continue. It’s a great feeling.”
The next day, the Owls played the Explorers for the fourth time this year. “They became our rival team because they always play against us tough, and the game play pretty much goes back-and-forth each game as to who can win this game, who can win that game,” Jones said.
Tangtrakul said this particular match against La Salle was scary because the two teams were so familiar with one another.
“We were kind of intense about strategizing and bonding because we knew they were ready to kick our butts,” Tangtrakul said.
The Owls started out poorly. Somerdyk said Temple played defensive for 30 minutes in the game’s first half.
“We had our halftime pep talk, and we were only down five points at the time, and we knew if we could get it together, we’d be able to win,” Somerdyk said. “We scored the last try of the game at the last whistle.”
“Coming back and winning was phenomenal,” Somerdyk added.
The team received red, white and blue Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union medals after the La Salle match. Tangtrakul, who scored two of the five tries, was named Most Valuable Player, an honor she received last semester as well. That night, she said she slept wearing her medal.
The Owls would like to bring back another set of medals from California, but Somerdyk said that no matter the outcome, she is proud of her teammates’ work.
“No other sport makes you be friends with people even after you played against them in a match,” Somerdyk said. “It’s a really nice feeling of camaraderie.”
Josh Fernandez can be reached at email@example.com.