For the second year in a row, the women’s rugby team has landed a spot in the USA Division II Collegiate Rugby Conference championship quarterfinals.
The team will face Norwich University, a military school from Vermont, in the quarterfinals on May 11 at Stanford University in California. If the Cougs beat Norwich, they could continue on to face one of two other teams in the finals.
“We have played all three teams in the past and they were all very physical and difficult games,” said Kathleen Higgins, the team's public relations officer. “Each team has its own style of rugby that it brings to the pitch so it’s hard to predict what is going to happen."
This season, the 31-player team was crowned as the Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Union League Champions and the Pacific Coast Regional Champions, Higgins said.
The team is currently just a club sport and is not recognized as an official NCAA Division I team at WSU.
“Becoming an NCAA athletic team would have its advantages and disadvantages,” Higgins said. ”We would get the benefits of being a Division I NCAA sport with facilities and trainers, but because there are hardly any other NCAA women’s rugby teams, it would be difficult to find teams to play against.”
Only three schools in the Pac-12 have recognized women’s rugby teams — Stanford, Oregon State and University of Oregon.
“The level of play would be very different and the program would change a lot,” Higgins said.
In league play, the team competes against Western Oregon University, Seattle University, Central Washington University, Reed University and the University of Washington.
Higgins said the teams also play several friendly, non-league matches against various teams throughout the season.
Team members practice three times a week, but also bond through unofficial workouts and friendship.
“It’s like having a little family at WSU that you can rely on,” Higgins said. “Nobody understands you quite like another rugger, and these women are some of my best friends.”
The team originally formed in 1983, but took a recent hiatus in the mid-2000s. The current team was reestablished in 2006.
“From ‘06 to now, the Cougs have gone from wearing white tees with Sharpie on the back to representing the West Coast in rugby,” team President Amber Sadoski said. “Coach Leah Hammon has been with the club as a player and coach since the revival and deserves a lot of credit for making the team what it is today.”
Higgins and Sadoski both said team members depend on their combined strength, speed and adaptability to push through to the finals.
“These attributes, coupled with the passion each player has for the sport makes WSU Women’s Rugby a force on the pitch,” Sadoski said.