Women’s rugby finding success in first season

Junior Arianna Frazier breaks through in a contest against Adel on Oct. 7 at home. CF won 29-0.

Running, passing, tackling and scoring tries, the women’s rugby team is truly invested in the sport as they’ve been practicing since June. With the tournament season lasting only five to six weeks, the rugby crew got a head start on the season to be better prepared for the state tournament on Sunday, Oct. 27 in Ankeny. 

After the home tournament on Monday, Oct. 14, the team is now 5-3. The team’s toughest competitors have been last year’s state champions, Des Moines Roosevelt and the very physical Dowling squad. 

Senior Piper Victoria said it wasn’t easy getting the team started, which seems hard to believe considering their first year success. 

“Our coach tried to start a team last year but ended up not starting one. We had a meeting the last week of school and got a few girls together for the summer practices. A lot more girls joined the team when school started again and word got around,” Victoria said. 

There are now 19 girls on the team consisting of four seniors, four juniors, 10 sophomores and one freshman.

Junior Noelani Mattson said she is thrilled with the progress of the first year team. “It’s really cool being on the first women’s rugby team in CF history because I’ve learned a lot of new things about the sport, and we are doing really good this season for a first year team, compared to the other girls we are playing who have been playing for multiple years,” Mattson said.

Senior Abby French also said she is elated to be making history playing on the first women’s rugby team along with Mattson. “Being on the first CF girls rugby team is very exciting. I feel like I’m part of the start of something that’s going to grow. I can see this sport becoming really popular for future students, and I am even thinking about joining a team in college,” French said.

Many girls on the team didn’t know a lot about the sport before they joined the team. “I didn’t have much prior knowledge to the sport, but I wanted to try it because my brother did it last spring,” Mattson said. 

French said she is hoping to make the most of her last year at Cedar Falls and joined the team to do just that. “I didn’t have very much knowledge about rugby before playing, but my curiosity pushed me to join, and the positive experience I grew made me want to keep playing. I knew I wanted to be in a sport partially because of it being my senior year and I want to hit all the bases that I can before leaving,” French said.

Out of only 11 women’s rugby teams in the state, Cedar Falls is tied for third in rankings and will appear at the state tournament. Each team out of the 11 plays each other once in the six week season, and based on rankings, each team plays two teams at the state tournament. 

Senior Reagan Wetlaufer said she is now back on the field ready to go after getting a concussion early in the season. “Rugby is tough, but concussions are actually not very common. In rugby we learn to tackle in a way that doesn’t use the head and shouldn’t hurt us without a helmet,” Wetlaufer said.

Concussions aren’t as common, however injuries are inevitable in the sport. “We have so much adrenaline during the 16 minutes that we can barely feel the hits unless we are really hurt. As soon as our adrenaline lessens though, we are hit with a lot of pain. We all leave with a lot of bruises, marks, burns, scratches, and pain,” Victoria said.

Even though they leave the field battered and bruised, the girls love the contact, the high speed and intensity and the team work that leads to victory. “Some of my favorite parts about the game are the team dynamics and the fact that it’s a contact sport. Everyone on the team has an important role, but their roles can change throughout the game as they play,” French said. 

Wetlaufer echoed French’s love of the team and mechanics of the game. “The best thing about rugby is the speed of the game. I’ve made lots of new friends this season, and I’m so happy that I’m a part of the team,” Wetlaufer said.

Victoria said she’s become more immune to the physical demands of the game as the season has continued. “Running up to the other team at full speed with the intention of hitting them as hard as possible was a little bit intimidating during our first few games, but eventually it becomes second nature to just hit the girls, we know that attacking on defense is crucial to winning and stopping them from scoring,” Victoria said.

Whereas the ideal athlete in one sport comes in a certain shape, Victoria said rugby doesn’t have defined size. “Rugby has taught me that I can use my strength and power from lifting weights for four years to my team’s advantage. Rugby doesn’t discriminate for players. Any body size can play,” Victoria said.

The team’s overarching goal is common amongst a lot of Cedar Falls sports, but there are also many other goals the team hopes to achieve before then. “Our team goal for the season is mainly to win State, but also to focus on passing more during games,” Mattson said. 

Wetlaufer added to Mattson’s list, wanting to work on more technical aspects of their play. “A goal for our team this season is to work on communication and staying spread out on the field,” Wetlaufer said.

Victoria is seeing growth in the team and seeing them achieve those goals day by day. “Our team is really good at being defensive and tackling. We have been working on running up together on defense so we don’t have holes in our line,” Victoria said.

There’s always something new happening during the game since it’s so fast paced. “During scoring, hearing the cheering of the crowd and touching the ball down is very rewarding because you know all your hard work from the practices the week before paid off. During tackling, my mind is usually focusing on going for the legs or grabbing their jersey,” Mattson said.

Although the sport is obviously very competitive and combative, Victoria said the feel on and off the field are polar opposites. “You’d think with how aggressive everything is that we would hate the other team, and there are a select few teams that carry the rivalry and competition on and off the field, but most teams are pretty nice. We can look at each other and laugh together in the scrums if something funny happens, but there are a few teams that don’t joke around when the clock is running. When we shake hands at the end of the game, it’s really weird to see how normal and alike the other team is to us, when we were all just attacking each other one minute ago. It just shows that it’s just a game that we all love and enjoy to play. It just happens to be really aggressive,” Victoria said.

Playing under the lights is a feeling like no other for the CF Women’s Rugby team. “I love being a part of this team because it feels really empowering. We’re the start of something new and having the chance to learn and play the sport for the first time is amazing. Moments on the field that are easiest to remember are the ones where everything in the atmosphere feels super intense, and the pressure to play smart and quick is high. Working as a team and reaching our goals is what makes it worth the while,” French said.

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