Led by junior second-row lock Karina Sundar, the team stays undefeated by routing teams.
Since junior winger Brie Ziegler of the women’s rugby team tore her anterior cruciate ligament back in February, she has watched and cheered for her squad from the sidelines. But her teammates’ victories are keeping her far from bored.
“We’ve been working new players into A-side games, which is awesome, and that’s basically to try and help us formulate a defense,” Ziegler said. “It’s all coming together beautifully.”
Since the team’s second-place finish in the Division II National Title Championships last season, women’s rugby has outscored opponents a combined 161 to 24, 142 to 7 excluding a scrimmage against The College of New Jersey on Sept. 11 that did not count as a league match.
The team recently added a league win against TCNJ to its collective victories this season. Coach Owen Jones said Temple beat TCNJ, 56-0, in the Oct. 9 game at Edgely Field.
Junior back Rachel Bandura, who plays fly half, said the team got off to a rough start.
“I would say that in the beginning, we had a rough time keeping control of the ball because we had a lot of drops, and our passes weren’t on,” the co-captain said. “In our second half, we really kicked it up, and we kept constant pressure and were constantly attacking.”
“It was a lot better than the first half,” Bandura added.
Jones said he was very proud of the team’s performance so far this season.
“We’re following last year’s strong performance,” he said. “The players have done a great job recruiting [new teammates] with backgrounds in soccer or lacrosse. They’re really athletic.”
Despite the productive work and intense results, women’s rugby is still in Division II. Men’s rugby, which finished second in Division II like the women’s team, moved up to Division I this season.
Although some would see this as a reason to be furious, the team, Jones and co-coach Richard Casey are far from it.
Jones said the men’s division created an “upper echelon of schools because Division II had lots of teams” and had teams that were not capable of competing, so the Temple men’s team was moved up.
“With the guys, they have less teams in [Division I], but they are still on par with their competitors,” he added.
“We wanted to stay in D-II,” Bandura said. “D-I is a smaller division and much farther traveling, and D-II is still a lot of work.”
Zeigler said it gives the women’s rugby team another year to prove they are ready as a club sports team to move up to D-I play.
“It’s within the last year or two that we started coming together again,” she said.
The team credits its victories to its coaches and good communication.
“We have great coaches helping us get into the rugby mindset,” Bandura said.
The coaches have the women’s rugby team training with a one- to two-mile run, followed by a split into the back and forward units to work on unit cohesion and performance. After the unit practices, coaches have the team members come together for live game play to reenact situations. Bandura said this was especially helpful for new team members.
“We still have to work on doing simple things and getting fundamentals down,” she said. “Our passes can be off sometimes, so we really have to focus on that because if someone loses control of the ball, we all lose.”
Zeigler said Bandura and senior co-captain Kayleigh Dymond are incredible leaders and said they were “powerhouses.”
Zeigler also mentioned a great force in the forward unit of the team, junior Karina Sundar.
Sundar, who plays second-row lock, took a year off because of scheduling conflicts with a part-time job in her hometown. She’s working out her schedule so she can make a majority of the games because she loves rugby, she said.
“It’s mostly about the physical aspect and how much of a team we are,” Sundar said. “We come together so well out on the field, and I love full-contact sports. I played soccer my whole life, and now that I actually get to tackle people, it’s awesome.”
In terms of flaws, she said, the team just needs to work on perfecting skills of each player individually.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Sundar said. “Everybody just has to step it up to the best of their ability.”
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.