Their faces told the tale. Splashed with mud, pelted with rain, sweating, shivering, laughing, yelling--these faces glowed, positively glowed, through a cold, gray afternoon last Sunday.
Never mind the weather or the sullen opponents or the fatigue. The players on the Radcliffe rugby team, savoring a 17-0 trouncing of arch-rival Boston College, weren't letting go of this thrill.
"All our seasons of hard work have finally culminated in this win, and it feels so good," said senior Sarah Schooler, the Radcliffe team President. "We've waited a long time for this."
With the victory on Sunday, Radcliffe moved its record for the 1995 season to 5-0. Despite club-sport status and the attendant lack of recognition from much of the University community, the team clinched the top seed for the New England Rugby Football Union championships, which begin this Saturday at Harvard. It also defeated a formidable rival which had entered the game undefeated and which reigned as national champs just three years ago.
These facts sound even more impressive when one considers the humble origin from which the current Radcliffe squad began.
Once Upon a Time
Schooler and her senior classmates remember how differently things stood when they joined the team as freshmen.
Entering the program just a year before many of the top players graduated, the current senior class enjoyed only a short honeymoon before finding themselves thrust into key positions.
"That was scary," senior Farah Stockman said. "The first thing I was told when I stepped on the field was, 'You're in the wrong place.'
"I thought I'd just play one game, and then my body would be too broken to go on. I thought it'd be heroic, you know, to say that I'd played rugby once for Radcliffe."
Stockman and her classmates persisted, however, through the drudgery which typifies much of the club-sport experience.
They forged on despite having to schedule their own practice times and matches, hire their own referees, arrange transportation to other schools, and, in some cases, buy and sew their own uniforms.
Besides such logistical hassles, the players sometimes had to confront skepticism from classmates. The Black and White's reputation for partying, it seemed, exceeded that for playing.
"People would come up to me--they still come up to me sometimes--and say, 'Oh, you guys are just a drinking club,'" senior Jane Kim said. "It's become a lot more of an athletic thing, though. It's not just social."
Coach Lisa Gartner agreed. "I think we have a great bunch of people. They have fun, but they work hard, too. It's a good combination, and they make it happen," she said.