Women’s rugby team heads to nationals

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by Macie Heller, Special to The Simpsonian

After a successful season, the Simpson College women’s rugby team is headed to the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO)’s national tournament Saturday, hoping to improve last year’s fourth-place finish.

The team emerged one year ago and is already increasing in size and aspirations.

Simpson alumna Mariah Young started the team during her senior year after expressing her interest to the administration, who helped her figure out all the details of starting a team.

The next step was finding a coach.

Luckily for Young, the administration found Kelsie McDowell, who got involved in rugby while she was a student at the University of Northern Iowa.

She also serves as the head coach for Southeast Polk High School.

McDowell has been coaching the Simpson team for the two years it has been on campus, leading them to nationals. The team placed fourth and hope to do better this year.

Most women find out about the team by visiting the booth at the Student Organizations Festival hosted in the fall or by word of mouth.

McDowell said women just need to show up to participate.

“Everyone is welcome,” McDowell said. “Rugby is one of those sports that all body types there is a spot on the field for you. I would love to get some more numbers out and maybe start a JV team too.”

There is no level of experience needed to join the team.

“I had to Google rugby,” said Amy Loverin, a returning player.

The team practices every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in Cowles or Hopper Gymnasium from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A typical rugby practice for the team consists of warm-ups and drills, such as passing and plays.

The game is much like football and soccer with similar rules.

Occasionally they will scrimmage each other or the men’s team will come scrimmage. Some members said they like when the men’s team practices, too, because it gives them the chance to get the game experience when they scrimmage.

Games consist of a continuous 14-minute game, with no timeouts.

A player will, on average, run six miles in one game. The team prepares to play about four to five games.

This year’s team has been built up of many women who had never played until they came to Simpson. There are also many people who know very little about the sport itself.

Many women on the team hope to do better than they did last year after taking fourth at nationals.

“If we stay healthy, I see us improving and doing really well,” McDowell said.

When playing a contact sport, it is hard to gauge a month or two out. Although Simpson’s team is a club team, they have the opportunity to play against bigger schools, which helps improves the girls and prepare them for their competition at nationals.

The team is sitting at a 19-5 record for the season and after placing fourth at nationals, the girls know what they have to do to get better. They are battling a couple of injuries, but this will not hold them back.

“We all have really good chemistry and have learned how to work together and play as a team. We are all really motivated to prove people wrong and to show what we are made of,” Loverin said.