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They are undefeated so far this season. They have made it to nationals two years in a row, taking second in the nation last spring. They have an abundance of spirit, power, camaraderie and tremendous athletic ability. And chances are, you may never have heard of them.
The Radcliffe Rugby team is one of the best kept secrets in the world of Harvard (and Radcliffe) athletics.
Co-captained by seniors Rebecca "Bex" Wallison and Nancy McGuire, the team is comprised of approximately 50 women. Unbeknownst to many undergraduates, the team has enjoyed an incredibly successful season to date, emerging victorious in every match it has played.
In Radcliffe's first contest of the fall season the team crushed the opposition, defeating Smith by a commanding score of 37-0. The team seconded this big win the following weekend with a 39-0 victory over Brown.
"The scores are not unusual," said Wallison. "We are capable of beating teams by even more than that. We have a really deep team this year."
Last Saturday the team added yet another victory to its winning streak, defeating Dartmouth, a formidable opponent, by a score of 17-7. This victory catapulted the Black & White into the number-one ranked school in its division.
These wins are the continuation of several years of success for Radcliffe Rugby.
Two years ago, the team made its first appearance at nationals. Radcliffe returned to Cambridge with a very respectable fourth place finish.
This past spring, the Black & White took home the second place title after losing a heartbreaking match to Penn State, 22-20. The team spirit was lifted, however, by the numerous accolades bestowed upon them at the competition. Five women were named All-American, and the team received an MVP award for one of its forward formations.
This year, the team is hungry for the national title. Building on the momentum and skill developed throughout the past few seasons, hopes are high and chances are good.
Unfortunately, the success of Radcliffe Rugby is rarely recognized. As a club sport, the team does not receive the in-depth coverage of the varsity squads.
"Getting recognition from the school on a higher level would be nice," said Wallison. "We're a great group of athletes--a highly talented group of women. I think we deserve to be judged at the same level as varsity. We're one of the most successful teams here."
"It's sad that it has taken for us to get to nationals for people to realize that there is a women's rugby team," said senior Kara Dwyer.
These woes, however, may soon be mere memories. Currently, rugby is under consideration for varsity status. An increase in the amount of time, money and recognition allotted to the sport would be the likely result of such a change.
Some players are not completely unhappy with the current club status, however, and enjoy the intrinsic benefits of being part of a non-varsity team.
"It helps to keep things in perspective," said junior Erica Brooks. "You play because you like it and because it's fun, not for the recognition you get, because you aren't going to get any."
Indeed, Radcliffe Rugby has a unique effect on it's team members. With very few exceptions, none of the players have any rugby experience, and step onto the field for the first time with absolutely no idea of how to play the game. But after only a few weeks on the team, it becomes almost impossible for them to envision a college experience devoid of the sport.
"I have possibly decided that rugby is the best thing on earth," Wallison said. "It's a great sport and the people on the team are fantastic."
"It surprised me how close the team was," McGuire said. "I used to row, and with rowing it was this crazy, cutthroat competition. Here, we have healthy internal competition, but everyone is so caring and close to each other. It's the most positive social part of my life."
A distinctive feature of Radcliffe Rugby is that, unlike certain skill-specific sports such as basketball or tennis, it attracts all different kinds of people. Athletes ranging from 4'9" to 6'1" are intrigued by the sport, the result of which is a wonderfully diverse group of extremely talented women.
"I played sports in high school and really missed the experience of being on a team," Dwyer said. "I wanted to try something new, something where you could really move up in the ranks and compete at a high level."
Other team members arrive at Radcliffe with no intention of participating in athletics, only to find themselves rugby enthusiasts after only a few weeks.
"Rugby was not something I had ever thought about doing," said freshman Bernadine Han. "But at registration, all these girls were standing up and screaming about rugby. They were so incredibly enthusiastic that I thought maybe I should try it. And now, I totally love it."
Radcliffe Rugby appears to be the little known jewel of collegiate athletics. The teammates are victorious on the field and members of a tightly knit circle of friends. Possessing both a competitive spirit and the warmth of a family, the team is destined to continue its success.
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