Radcliffe Ruggers Short on Size, Long on Bruises, All-Out on Field

The game of rugby has a long and hallowed history, almost (but not quite) dating back to Norse times. Much more than just football without pads or a derivative of Australian rules football, rugby allows the most physical play to be combined with the subtlest of efforts.

But you don't have to tell Radcliffe women that--their rugby team is alive and well. Although rugby is just a club sport at the collegiate level, the Radcliffe women's rugby club does not consider itself second-tier. The players are building the club on and off the field and creating a tradition as they go along.

Only One Way To Go--Straight Up

Rugby is a rough sport, and, to be honest, Radcliffe is not the biggest team out there. But the players more than get by, using a combination of speed, strength, guile and technique. Women's rugby, which is less than 20 years old at Radcliffe, had a 6-2 record in the fall season and hopes to improve on that next year.

Although its record was not good enough to qualify for the Easterns--only two teams make it, and this year it was Dartmouth and Amherst, the only two teams that beat Radcliffe--the team members do not despair. The Black and White won the Mayor's Cup Tournament in the fall hosted by the Beantown Club team (whose players and former players coach Radcliffe),beating Amherst for sweet revenge in the finals. And the players express confidence that winning the Easterns and thus earning a trip to the Nationals (which has not yet been achieved by Radcliffe) is in the near future.

To be precise, the team's chances will improve next year because, due to the proliferation of teams in the east compared to other regions, the eastern region will probably be split in two. Since currently only the top two teams in the east go to Easterns, the Black and White's chances in 1996-97 will get a lot better. And the team looks strong for next year.

"We have a better shot next year of going to Nationals because we aren't going to lose many players," junior Sarah Schooler, who is president of the club, said.

The Nationals take place in the spring, so Radcliffe's omission leaves it to play only the Ivy League Tournament and unofficial matches in the spring season. (Its fall season is played under the auspices of the New England Rugby Football Union.) Radcliffe placed second in the Ivy League Tournament to Dartmouth last weekend.

A Club For All Seasons

As important as the results on the field are, what the players do off the field hardly takes a back seat in the proverbial car. Like all club sports, the team receives minimal funding from the athletic department. Radcliffe, the Undergraduate Council, parents, and $45 a season dues bring in most of the money. The current players are also trying to fund raise through alumni, like the men already do.

"We're really trying to build an alumni network like the men," junior back-captain (in rugby, there is one captain for the backs and one for the forwards) Patty Seo says. "The men have about 100 years on us. Valeria Scott ['92] really worked hard to start one."

The financial constraints put on the team are not terrible, but are not illusory, either. The team wanted to go to England for spring break, but could only afford a trip down to the Washington, D.C.-Virginia area.

Like the men's team, women's rugby is open to all who come out for it. The club then fields as many 15-member teams as the numbers allow, ordering the teams (A side, B side, C side, etc.) based on ability. This year, there are 35-40 regular players, meaning only a A and B side have been consistently fielded. (But tournament performances are judged by how A side does.) Last year, however, a C side regularly played.

And the social side of rugby should certainly not be underestimated. Going against the trash-talking grain that has been set by the more 'popular' sports, at the end of each fierce rugby game the opposing teams gracefully congratulate each other. Moreover, a party for all the combatants usually follows.

"Traditionally, after the game we socialize with the other team," Schooler says. "That's pretty unique to rugby."