Rugby confident after season opener loss
By Emma Cavanaugh / Winonan
Normally, a 52-10 loss would devastate a team. This was not the case for the Winona State University Women’s rugby team, the Black Katts, in their season opener on Saturday, March 25 against the University of Minnesota Gophers.
“Me and my teammates thought that the match went very well, although the score to most doesn’t show why we would feel that way,” first-year student Summer Downs said.
She explained the team has a majority of first-year students and sophomores, and juniors and seniors are in short supply.
“University of Minnesota gave a good fight and came out on the top scoring-wise… but we had some great things happening. It’s amazing the skill and talent we have,” Downs said.
On Saturday, Downs, along with sophomore Kari Jordan and first-year Makayla Leraas, made some tackles that slowed down the Gophers. Sophomore Ellyn Grossen stepped up to the plate and took charge, directing players and making calls on the field.
“I’m very proud of some of our rookies such as Jordan Hofmeister who is now our new hooker and Sydney Gould who is a wing. They both had their first rugby games ever… and it’s great to see them starting to understand the game and how things work along with the others,” Downs said.
The Black Katts ended their fall season with a trip to the USA Rugby DII Collegiate 15s Nationals, while this spring season will consist of less games.
Head coach Josh Krzewinski said the team can not afford to go to nationals again for the spring season, which will impacts the games they will play. Instead of playing 7s games and competing for the ACRA DII Collegiate Rugby 7s Nationals, the team will continue to play 15s games.
Krzewinksi said, “The fall leads to a national championship and we didn’t want to add any more expenses to our student athletes by having to compete for a shot at another 7’s title. Playing for a national championship in the fall and again [in the] spring is a lot of rugby, a lot of time and a lot of money.”
Downs added, “We’re playing a few 15s games to get our rookies more experience and time to learn, and veteran players more ready for the fall when it’s more intense of a season.”
Downs explained the main focus for the spring season is to learn the game, a necessity for such a young team.
“We don’t have a lot of numbers right now, and with so many of us having just that first season under our belts or just starting two weeks ago, a lot of hard work is to be done. However… there are a wide variety of skill across this team and once the newer players are understanding the game more as the season goes on, I think we’ll be just about unstoppable,” she said.
This season marks the 25th year anniversary for the Black Katts. On Saturday, April 8, the team will celebrate the occasion by inviting back Black Katt alumni to play a game with the team, and then have dinner.
“Before 25 years ago, WSU Women’s Rugby didn’t exist. I couldn’t imagine what I’d be doing without my team and the experiences I’ve had because of it so I know we’re all forever thankful for the women that fought so hard to establish this team,” Downs said. “I think it’s so cool to feel like a part of such a great community and it’s going to be so fun to meet so many of the past Black Katts.”
By Emma Cavanaugh