The Women’s Rugby team definitely did not foresee the success they had, but now they are more motivated to advance even further as the only Gustavus sport in Division II.
“After we moved up to Division II two years ago, over half the team graduated. Coming into last season we only had seven players returning, and we needed fifteen to play on the field,” Senior Vicky Hidalgo said. “Last year we worked really hard to recruit and were able to build a strong team. [This year’s team] is composed mostly of people that started playing last year. I think initially my expectations were higher than they were last year because we had a strong returning core of players, but I never expected to make it this far.”
Junior Chelsie Hansen agreed with Hidalgo. “If someone would have told me we had a shot to play in the National Tournament at the beginning of the season, I would have said that’s a great thought but it’s probably not going to happen. Now that we are just one win away from going to the National Tournament, we are more hungry than ever to get there.”
Regardless of the Division II status, the Gustie ruggers have competed extremely well with the bigger schools, relying on a combination of talent, passion and an unequaled determination to win. “I think we just want it more,” Junior Cydni Smith said. “As a team we want it so bad. It’s not a coach that pushes us, so we have to push ourselves.”
“Sometimes I think it’s difficult as a peer-led team because all these other schools have leadership with people who know about the game,” Hidalgo said. “We are discovering the game together and building from each other’s strengths.”
The Gustavus Women’s Rugby team is also well aware of how they can attribute the success they have had this season. “We all know that everyone relies on everyone else’s part because it’s not only on one person, it’s on the team,” Sophomore Melody Monyok said. “No one goes out to play for herself. I know what I do impacts what the rest of the team does.”
Sophomore Allison Kieley agreed with Monyok. “We definitely share a cohesiveness on and off the pitch,” Kieley said.The fact that the Gustavus Women’s Rugby team has had so much success this season without a coach cannot be overlooked. “It definitely changes the atmosphere from an orderly, militant type with a coach telling you to do this and that to where you can still find it fun at the end of the day and enjoy practices as a team,” Junior Lindsey Stene said.
“Being student-led, everyone is doing it together and it’s a team mentality,” Sophomore Amy Hughes said.
In spite of the difficult practices at times, the team still finds time to have fun together and enjoys spending time as a team. “We are able to separate the fine line between goofing around, having fun together, [working hard] and being passionate about what needs to get done,” Hidalgo said.
The most notable fun activity the team participates in is a pregame tradition the team has developed this season. “We listen to the song ‘Party in the USA’ by Miley Cyrus and dance and sing out loud. We use it to intimidate our opponents or hope they underestimate us,” Hughes said.
The Women’s Rugby team will play Winona State on Saturday, Nov. 14 in Iowa Falls, IA to go to the National Tournament. The Gusties have lost to Winona State twice this season, but those two losses are the only blemishes on their record. The Gusties have also lost those two games by a combined seven points and are confident they can defeat them this time. With a win over Winona State, the Gustavus Women’s Rugby team will go to Nationals out in California in the spring.