By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
Athletic competition at Saint Vincent College goes beyond our NCAA Division III teams. SVC is home to several club sports, including women’s rugby. The team, currently coached by alum Gina Johnston, was founded in 2014 and competes in the Allegheny Rugby Union (ARU) Small College Women Division. Coach Johnston played on the team as an undergraduate and while she was completing her master’s degree.
Before coming to college, Johnston had never played rugby. However, joining the team with no prior experience is not unusual. “It’s a really welcoming, great group of girls, if you ever feel the itch to play, most of our girls, if not all of our girls… never played rugby before college,” Johnston said. “Recruiting-wise, most people don’t know the team exists outside of the college.”
Junior environmental science major Bridgette Gorg also had never played rugby before SVC. “I only started playing rugby my freshman year of college, and because of COVID restrictions, I actually never played a real game of rugby until my sophomore year.” Gorg’s late start to the sport was not due to lack of interest; she had already been aware of the sport for several years “I saw women’s rugby appear in the Olympics for the first time in 2016…but there were no rugby leagues near my town, so when I found out SVC had a team, I was so excited,” Gorg said.
Despite recruiting being almost an impossibility as a club team, the women’s rugby team has been quite successful since its inception. The team currently has a 3-2-1 record. Last spring, Gorg was named to the ARU Women’s Collegiate 7s Select Sides roster alongside teammates Giana Georgiana and Mary Conn; Georgiana was named to the All-Conference team. The Select Sides team, made up of athletes from colleges across Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, competed in Houston against teams from all over the country.
“Traveling to Houston as part of the ARU National Women’s Select Team was one of the most exciting experiences of my life…it was such a wonderful experience to travel, meet new people, and play a sport I love, representing my college and rugby union,” Gorg said. She plans to try out for the team again this year and make it to the National All-Star Tournament once again.
The women’s team typically plays rugby 7’s, a type of rugby with seven players on a field rather than fifteen. The faster nature of a game with less players suits the women’s team well. According to Coach Johnston, practices are on Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Interested students are welcome to attend practice to see what the sport is all about.