PG West: West Alleagheny grad Rosso hooked on rugby
Thursday, August 09, 2007
By Chris Adamski, Tri-State Sports & News Service
When Lauren Rosso was a freshman at Penn State, she had only a cursory knowledge of the sport.
But a chance sighting of an Irish team on campus that was eating in her dining commons would change this West Allegheny High School graduate’s life.
“[Rugby] will be my defining college experience, and probably a defining life experience for me,” said Rosso, an Oakdale resident.
“The things I’ve got to do with rugby, I can’t imagine now I didn’t do before. Just the traveling and the high level of competition and just everything … the friends I’ve made in college and probably the rest of my life through rugby.
“And most people don’t know it’s the best sport in the entire world.”
Rosso asked around and ultimately went to watch the Penn State men’s team play. Through a friend with a connection to the team, she contacted the women’s team and attended a tryout.
“I kind of stumbled upon it,” Rosso said.
Less than three years later, Rosso is one of the best collegiate players in the country.
After leading Penn State to the college national championship as a junior in April, Rosso has been invited to USA Rugby’s under-23 women’s 7’s camp in Park City, Utah, this week. She is one of 18 players from around the country invited, from which 12 will be selected.
“It’s real exciting,” Rosso said. “But I am also really nervous at the same time. We will see how it goes.”
The honor is not bad for a girl who only ran cross country and dabbled in soccer while in high school and wasn’t exactly what you’d term “a natural” when it comes to rugby.
“I was probably the worst rookie player ever,” said Rosso, who is studying bio-behavioral health and German at Penn State.
“But the learning curve is so quick. I went from terrible to devoted. At Penn State, we’re really lucky to have really great coaching. I’ve learned to play at the best place, and once you start to learn and get more confidence it just kept carrying over.”
Rosso has played on 15-players-a-side teams, but she will be evaluated while playing “sevens,” which is a seven-player game, in Utah. Despite the fact she will have to learn different positioning from her normal outside center, Rosso is setting her sights high.
“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to make the team,” Rosso said.
“But I think I want to just kind of learn the entire system that goes along with trying out at a national level and just live that.
“I’m excited to play with the caliber of players I’ll get to play with out there. Penn State is an amazing team, but it’s always nice to be able to play other people with different coaches and different perspectives on the game.
“I just want to work with different people and, hopefully, be able to come back and make Penn State better and progress my game as far as possible.”
No matter what happens in Utah, Rosso will always be able to call herself a national champion. The Penn State women’s team beat Stanford, 22-21, in May in Palo Alto, Calif., for the team’s 15th consecutive victory in the club title game.
“It was the coolest thing that ever happened to me,” Rosso said. “To work toward a goal and actually get it like that is amazing.
“[The final] was a really close game. It was awesome.”
Rosso has not yet been able to be home long enough over a summer to compete seriously in rugby in the Pittsburgh area.
But she plans on immersing herself in the local rugby scene after she graduates. Rosso said she will play the game as long as she is able and will work to promote and/or coach the sport in the future.
“It’s the best-kept secret in the entire U.S.,” Rosso said.
“Once people realize everything about it and what goes into it, I think it will catch on a lot more quickly. It’s an amazing sport with amazing people. People just need to know about it.”