The women’s rugby club started the year with only five returning players, but since then their numbers have gone up to as many as 42.
Co-captains Jess Knowles and Christina McDonald have been working to get more involved on campus and recruit more rugby athletes. Next year, the rugby club hopes to join a league. This is something they have unsuccessfully tried to do in the past due to uncommitted players.
However, Knowles is confident that the current players are committed enough to make their league efforts more successful in the future. “There’s a lot of freshmen, so they’re coming off high school sports. A lot of them are really dedicated, even though they don’t have to come to every practice,” Knowles said. “That’s a great value to have, especially for a club sport.” Before they can join a league, the club has to finish out the spring season.
They will play Gonzaga, Idaho and Montana. Knowles and McDonald are trying to generate more interest by involving the club in more campus events and by volunteering in the Cheney area. “We’ve been branching out a lot more this year,” Knowles said. “[If] any club needs support or is trying to do a fundraiser, we try and do what we can to help them. We also do some volunteering at elementary schools.”
Their efforts have helped in building their team number, but the large number of girls has also proven to be a problem. The club does not have an official coach, so it is up to Knowles and McDonald to decide who gets to play.
“We try to give everyone equal playing time, but just like any other sport, it’s also going to be based off of skills and commitment,” Knowles said. “If we notice you giving your all in practice, we’re going to put you in the game.”
Fifteen players can play at one time, and Knowles said the fact that rugby is a tiring sport makes substituting players easier. Looking back on the fall season, Knowles said her biggest highlight was the game against Washington State University. E
ven though Eastern did not win, Knowles was proud to be able to score against a nationally ranked team. The club ended their fall season with a 2-2 record. Knowles, a former basketball player, started playing rugby with some of her friends.
She discovered she had a talent for the sport, so she joined the club last year. Since then, she has worked to develop a better image for the team.
“There [were] a lot of issues we had last year. It wasn’t very well known, [and] we didn’t have a good name for ourselves,” she said.
This year, the team spends time together on and off the field. They also spend time with the their opponents. After each game, the Eastern rugby club holds a social for the opposing team, which involves a home cooked meal and singing rugby chants together.
“It’s probably my best experience I’ve had here at Eastern,” Knowles said. “The team is kind of like a sisterhood you can’t get anywhere else.”