Some great updates on HS Girls’ Rugby in Wisconsin and the NIT via LifeLawRugby:
• This weekend Milwaukee, Wis., is home to the 2007 Girls HS Rugby National Invitational Tournament. The DSHA Dashers of Milwaukee are going for a fourth-straight national title on home turf.
Here’s an article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about this weekend’s tournament (and we’ll just ignore the usual non-rugby non-intellectual banter from the reporter in the opening).
Rugby teams aim to keep teeth in battle for title
Posted: May 14, 2007
Well, it is kind of like football . . . but not really.
It is sort of like soccer, a little bit . . . but it’s different.
Maybe hockey, minus the sticks, has something to do with it, too.
What is definite is people huddle up in what looks like a celebratory group hug, then a ball that is oval like a football but bigger is dropped in the middle and it no longer looks like a celebration. It then resembles more of a riot, and sometimes players climb on each other’s shoulders like a chicken fight.
If you’ve never seen rugby played live, it is a pretty cool sight. There are a ton of gross and semi-amazing stories, like a guy splitting his head open and, because there was no trainer, teammates taped his dome with duct tape and he played on.
Casual observers think two things when they hear “rugby”: missing choppers and blood. It is not for the easily queasy, even when girls play.
“Rugby is the most physically intense sport women play,” said Nicole Back, who played club in 2004 at UW-Milwaukee. “It’s football without pads. Nothing has made me feel stronger.”
This week, Milwaukee is getting a taste of the sport at a pure, championship level when the 16-team Girls High School Rugby National Invitational Tournament starts Friday. The tournament’s Web site calls it the biggest tournament in girls high school rugby history, although only eight teams are in the comp bracket that plays for the national title.
Divine Savior Holy Angels, the all-girls Catholic college prep school, is host of the tournament. Its rugby team, which is club and not certified by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, has won the last three NIT championships, which is the equivalent to a national championship.
This is not the first time Milwaukee has been host of the Rugby NIT. In 1999, its inaugural year, the six-team bracket was played on the lakefront. This year it will be at the Milwaukee Sports Complex in Franklin and the Dashers want to defend home turf and have their seniors go out with four titles. They have also won the last five regional championships, which teams must win to get an NIT bid.
“As a result of our tradition, they play harder for it,” DSHA coach John Klein said. “When you see that everybody before you has won, you feel that pressure to keep winning.”
Klein became enamored of the sport as a freshman at Marquette University when he decided it was time for him to try something new. Club rugby? Why not?
He is now in his 10th season as the coach of one of the most successful club rugby programs in the country. The sport has 350 teams and is considered the fastest growing high school sport.
Every one of the girls Klein gets has never played the sport, but its winning ways is part of the program’s selling point. He credits much of the success, for which he hesitates to take much credit, with DSHA’s practice habits. Klein includes every girl on the team, freshmen to seniors, in the same drills, grooming the youngsters to play at a high level.
“I think that has something to do with it,” he said. “They want to do their best to keep up with the girls that are older.”
The tournament itself is all the work of coaches, though. The festivities this weekend, which include opening ceremonies and a social gathering Saturday night for all the teams, will run upward of $20,000, and all of that money was raised by the teams.
Because rugby is a club sport, there is no financing from a governing body, not even USA Rugby, although Klein said the organization might change its position soon because of the growing popularity.
“It is fun because this is the coaches’ doing,” Klein said. “They are trying to give the girls something extra to play for.”
And rest assured it will be a great weekend for whoever holds up the championship cup and smiles for a picture without any missing teeth.
Also, congrats to both DSHA and Vernon for meeting in the finals of the Midwest Girls’ Rugby Championship – an All-Wisconsin Final!