Just a few morsels to share on a Tuesday …
• Via Against the Head, an article on UC-Santa Cruz’s play this season looking to defend last year’s national D-II championship.
New faces, same result; UCSC women’s rugby team headed to playoffs to defend national title
By Ryan Moses
Sentinel Staff Writer
SANTA CRUZ — The sun is shining and Monterey Bay can be seen shimmering off in the distance from the UC Santa Cruz lower east field. Postcard pictures are taken on Saturday mornings like this.
The peaceful setting is a stark contrast to the violence taking place on the rugby pitch where the UCSC women’s team is dismantling Saint Mary’s. UCSC is out-running, out-toughing, and out-scrumming the Gaels for a 39-5 victory. The Slugs are 5-0 on the year, and on their way to the their fifth straight Pacific Coast Playoffs. They rode last season’s post-season run all the way to the national title.
“That’s sick!” yell several players and coaches from the UCSC sidelines, “Did you see that? That was so sick”
They are expressing enthusiasm for senior Megan Healy’s run down the left side of the field and her stiff arm of a would-be tackler to the turf. Healy scores two tries in the game the rugby equivalent of a touchdown, they’re worth five points and kicks three conversions kind of like an extra point, but it’s worth two. She is one of three seniors on a team more than half made up of freshmen, and one of the eight remaining Slugs who can call herself a national champion.
“It’s really nice being an experienced player because I can help some of the rookies,” she says after the game, her mascara smearing a bit with sweat. “Sometimes it’s frustrating because not many of the players have played before. We had some very simple practices fall quarter just teaching the basic rules like how to pass it backwards”
“It’s kind of one of the tough parts,” says coach Alex McKenzie. “At least with something like soccer people have a general idea about the sport. Not many people are familiar with rugby”
Most of the girls who go out for the rugby team are former soccer players who got tired of settling for slide tackles and really wanted to hit somebody.
“You can tell in the beginning who has the aggression in them,” says Healy.
Co-coach Brett Amos says the contact a is major drawing point for the sport, and getting a constant source of fresh bodies is important. Obviously, with all that pad-less hitting, injuries are prevalent. After the game, the first thing the ladies do is compare battle scars.
“It’s just something you deal with,” says junior Amara Reddick.
Reddick exudes grit and toughness, the qualities that led to the success of last year’s squad. She can be heard yelling from across the field when she plays. She takes charge of her teammates who are fast and athletic, but unpolished. Reddick fumes over losing a bid at a shutout in the final minute against Saint Mary’s.
“First time you get in a rugby game it’s like being a deer in the headlights for 80 minutes. I’ll get on them because they need someone telling them where to go constantly, but then I’m one of the first ones to give them a hug if they get hurt”
Reddick and Healy are doing their best to make sure their inexperienced teammates are ready for the playoffs, which will take place at UCSC April 7-8.
Having home-field advantage will be a big help to the Slugs, not only because of the cheering fans, but also because they won’t have to travel. The team is almost entirely self-funded, and tries to save cash any way it can.
Sometimes the Slugs don’t have enough balls at practice, so they use a shoe. At halftime, Amos shifts from coach to salesman, and tries to pawn T-shirts.
Last year, UCSC had two weeks to raise enough cash to fly 20 girls to Florida for the national championships, where they played in hand-me-down men’s uniforms.
The Slugs hope to have that problem again, though now they have their own jerseys, because that’s where they will be headed for the Elite Eight if they win the Pacific Coast tournament. Win there, and they will be back under California’s blue skies at Stanford, playing for a second straight national championship.
Contact Ryan Moses at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congrats to the Slugs!
• Via a myspace bulletin, the Philly Women started a newsletter and it’s really well done. Plus you get to read about all the success the PWRFC is having thanks to all of their hard work. Check it out here!
• Just a good deed to share via Gainline, the Brigham Young University men’s team is donating $1,000 to rival Utah to help with playoff costs. Now that’s just good rugby and good sportsmanship.
• A new rugby blogger joins the ruckosphere. Dan in Milwaukee has started a Wisconsin U-19 Girls blog to help promote the sport here in our awesome state. ADDED: I had this link here before I saw he further discussed my post on money yesterday. 😉 But he makes solid points.
UPDATE: More links!
• A new rugby blogger in Italy at Diaspora! Too bad I can’t speak italian, despite my sicialian grandma.