Although the season ended on a somewhat somber note, as West Chester fell to Army in front of their senior day crowd, no one should go away from this season with their head down, fan or player. The girls have gone through an amazing journey, starting way back in the fall. The first game of the season took place against Eastern Illinois. At the start of the season, there were only four official NCAA women’s rugby teams, and West Chester was one of them, as was Eastern Illinois. Never before in history had an official NCAA sanctioned game taken place in women’s rugby between two official NCAA teams. This was the first, and West Chester came out on top in a heart stopping one point victory, ensuring themselves a spot in the record books forever.
From here, they won two more games in a row, making it three straight to start off the season, before falling to number one ranked Penn State. In the second game of the season, they shut out division rival Princeton, who won every EPRU championship since 1983 until West Chester joined the league. A month and a week later, the Lady Rams once again rolled over the Princeton Tigers 19-5 in the championship game, their third in a row. This gave West Chester a shot at the National tournament in Albuquerque, pending the outcome of their game versus James Madison in the spring season.
The girls came out after the break determined for victory, taking their first game back easily against the Tar Heels. This set the tone for the MARFU quarterfinals against JMU, the determining factor in whether or not they would make the Sweet Sixteen tournament for the third year in a row. The girls were obviously worthy of the title, as they held JMU scoreless.
While they fell in both semi final matches in the MARFU tourney, the girls still had solidified a spot in the National Tournament in April.
Five days after the MARFU tournament, the girls took on the Norwich Cadets. Norwich had recently become the fifth team to earn the NCAA title, making this the second NCAA sanctioned game ever. Norwich came into the match unbeaten at 16-0. They came away from West Chester with a 16-1 record, as West Chester laid it on them, running all around, through, and over the Cadets to gain victory in the second ever NCAA match, giving them a 2-0 NCAA record.
The final step in the season for West Chester was the Sweet Sixteen tournament, where they had the privilege of traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unfortunately, the girls fell in the first round to a talented Brown University team, but the real story came in the consolation game the next day, where they took on UCLA.
Against UCLA, West Chester had a slow start, going into the half down 17-0. They had too much heart for UCLA though, coming out in the second half and racking up 17 points to tie it. Twenty-two more points in the twenty-minute overtime gave the girls a win and a bid at the National tournament next year as well.
The season has been one to remember, especially for the talented group of seniors, who will be leaving this year.
“Today, we lost some of our best players,” Junior Erin Furlong said. “They have left some very big shoes to fill, but I think the underclassmen are up for the challenge.”
Katy Black, a star for not only West Chester, but the USA women’s rugby team as well, will be moving on. Also leaving is Steph Burkhardt, the all time leading scorer for WCU. Forwards Megan Godfrey and Cabrey Grey will be leaving due to graduation. Whitney Hartshorne, not only the back, but also kicker, will have big shoes to fill next year. Michelle “Muscles” Kirk will be missed as well, not only her leadership on the team, but her speed in the backfield and quickness around the outside.
“I’m sad that rugby is over,” Senior Susan Dake said after her last game Saturday. “It is such an emotional game.”
But as Furlong said, the underclassmen can get the job done. We have seen many young players step up late in the season, and their talent will only increase with experience. Among these skilled youngsters are freshmen Ali Dowdy, Madeline Kriebel, Megan Lamm, Kate Rada, and Laura Meier, and sophomores Alison Vandermay, Emily Reifsnyder, Brianne Feinour, Drew Groswith, and Mary Boccino, among others.
The seniors next year are extremely experienced as well. Coach DeRemer has also announced the captains for next season; Erin Furlong and Sasha Stauffer. There is definitely a lot of young talent on the team, and should show next year and blossom with experience.
The 2007-08 season was one of West Chester’s most impressive sports seasons of the year. We will have to see what happens in the off-season. What new freshmen will Coach DeRemer add to the roster? We will have to see how the team works together next year, and follow them throughout the fall season, and see if they can top this years accomplishments.
Ryan Frisco is a first-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.