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Tracing the legacy: Women’s rugby continues to make history

History is heavily ingrained in Colorado State University’s campus.

To the untrained eye, CSU holds history in its records, such as the fastest 50-yard freestyle swim set by Amy Van Dyken or the school’s first All-American achieved by Thurman “Fum” McGraw. However, sparsely known on campus is how collegiate women’s rugby in the United States started with a match between Colorado State and Colorado in fall 1972. 

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Before then, the women of both schools watched the men’s teams and organized a powder puff game in late 1971, which gave them a passion for the sport. Even older than the logging team on Colorado State’s campus, women’s rugby is a mainstay of club sports, and it isn’t going away. 

The team has 26 active members, headed by president Camille Martin, closing their fall season of 15s with two wins under their belt. Unlike many club teams, women’s rugby has two seasons, playing 15s in the fall and sevens in the spring.

In rugby, 15s consist of grueling 80-minute games devoid of helmets or pads, with 15 players on the field for each team. Sevens has the same structure, just with a shorter game time of 14 minutes and only seven players on the field for each team.

Of the 26 current members of the Colorado State women’s rugby team, a vast majority of them are new to the game.

“Eighty to 85% of the team members have never played before,” Martin said. “It’s a really inclusive sport for the number of people who have never played, and it’s really welcoming.”

The team was built from the ground up since the shutdown of club sports in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fall semester is an opportunity to get recruits and develop the team bond before the spring season.

“We had a lot of new people finding their footing, so we’re trying to find slots for everyone,” said Kayla Fox, a junior at CSU. “(But) it took an upturn; everyone has sort of been finding themselves and how they play.”

Coming from various backgrounds, 10 of the 26 active members are first-year students, and they’re just as passionate about the game.

“I grew up in Texas not having a rugby team, and I’m actually a dance major,” first-year Amryn Cowen said. “And there’s been so many sports I have played where I don’t want to go to practice. I don’t dread going to practice here.”

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Looking at their numbers going into the spring season, the team’s passion and dedication have paid off.

“We swept the national qualifying tournament in sevens,” Fox said. “We went 4-0 and then we outscored 130-30. We blew everyone out of the water. In sevens, we have a pretty good shot at making the national qualifier every single year, and we’ve been working really hard to fundraise for that.”

Moreover, something might be said for their entirely new coaching staff headed by Alexandra Long.

“(The new coaching staff) has been part of the adjustment as well and why our fall season was kind of on a low in terms of wins because it was a totally different coaching style,” Fox said. “This coaching staff is much more positive in terms of mentality with the team, giving everyone more of a chance.”

The combination of a new coaching staff and new members creates excitement for the game and new possibilities for the team.

“I think it is so fun looking at people from different backgrounds,” said Izzy Rodriguez, a first-year at CSU. “I had never played rugby before. I had never seen a rugby ball. I didn’t know what rugby was. I have played sports my entire life, and I have never felt so confident in a coaching staff.”

Their mentality seems to emulate the history that stands behind them. Collegiate women’s rugby was started by those daring enough to pioneer a club sport present nowhere else because they loved the game, and they still do.

“I love playing the game,” first-year Victoria Gomez said. “It’s super fun to go out there and hit people.”

Gomez herself has been out with an injury for most of the season and only had the opportunity to play in two of their latest games, but she still feels the sense of community.

“I would say that most people find some of their closest friends on the team, and going through a whole life of sports, I have never been necessarily close with my teammates,” Fox said. “But then I started playing rugby with this crew, and it has been a whole 180 from what I’m used to. I love practices. I look forward to it all the time.”

Reach Liv Sewell at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Liv_sewell22.

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