U women’s rugby team dominates the competition

Most of the 30-member club team takes full credit loads at the University.

Anna Weggel

They’ll kick, tackle and punch just like the boys, but University women’s rugby players are quick to point out they’re not the husky beasts some perceive them to be.

“People think you’re some intense man-woman,” junior Erin Clapper said. “We’re not.”

Most of the 30-member club team takes full credit loads and participate in other campus activities, Clapper said.

Many never played the sport before college, she said, but the team rarely loses.

“It caters to people who want to get out there, get active,” Clapper said. “You have to count on other players to be there physically and mentally.”

Playing dirty

Clapper said she gets fired up when other teams start to play “dirty” by throwing elbows or tackling people around the neck.

“It builds up intensity and excitement,” she said.

But, Clapper said, a good team does not have to resort to such moves.

“A good team plays fairly and aggressively,” she said. “You have to be a controlled athlete as much as an aggressive fighter.”

Clapper said sprained ankles and stress fractures are common.

“You name it; you can get it,” she said.

While the injuries hurt, the players stay in the game.

“Once you’re in there, it’s so intense and you’re having fun – you forget about outside stimuli, aches and pains, or what happened yesterday,” she said.

Clapper even took one of her injuries, a fresh black eye, to a sorority formal last year.

“My date was concerned,” she said.

Size doesn’t matter

Clapper said the team’s average body size is smaller than most competitors’. But, the team still wins.

“Where we lack in size, we more than make up in physical strength,” Clapper said.

The team earned third place in last year’s national championship, team captain Christy Ringgenberg said. The team hopes to return to the competition this year, she said.

To get back to the national championship, the team must win every match in the upcoming weeks.

“I think we should win them; we won them all last year,” she said.

Ringgenberg said one reason the team succeeds is its extraordinary coaching. Rather than only running plays, the coach teaches the players how to work together more efficiently, she said.

New blood

The team has struggled to recruit new players in the past, because few know about the sport, Ringgenberg said.

But this year, with the help of fliers and word of mouth, the team is the biggest it’s ever been, she said.

One new player is first-year student Christine Tighe.

Though her Milwaukee high school team won the national title, Tighe said, college rugby is much more intense.

“It’s really physically demanding and challenging but really rewarding as a sport,” she said.

Since joining this fall, Tighe said, her teammates have made her feel much more welcome at school.

“In such a big school, it’s nice to find a niche,” she said.

Although the sport can produce severe injuries, Tighe said she has never had a serious one.

“If you play with the proper technique, you won’t get hurt,” Tighe said.

The women’s team represents the sport well for Minnesota, men’s rugby club team president Lee Jorgensen said.

“They’ve done an amazing job these last couple years,” he said. “They’ve really done an awesome job of giving Minnesota rugby, in general, a good name.”

“They’re definitely not afraid to take or give a hit,” Jorgensen said.