Last Sunday, the West Chester University women’s rugby team lost in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union championship game for the first time in the last four years.The game took place in Shippensburg, as West Chester took on Delaware after beating Shipp the day before, in thrilling fashion. The Lady Rams played the Delaware Blue Hens earlier in the season, losing 6-5. In that game, West Chester’s defense was perfect, not letting up a try.
In last Sunday’s game, WCU once again did not let up a try. They only let up two penalty kicks again, holding Delaware to only six points. The only problem for the Golden Ram squad was that Delaware too did not let up a try, holding WCU to only one penalty kick in the game, and taking the crown by the score of 6-3.
The day before, West Chester won with a last second push over the line, and almost pulled through with the same outcome in the championship. Cheryl Johnson made a sideline drive as time expired to get WCU within striking distance, but the Delaware defense was able to hold off the desperate last second attempt.
The penalties played a big role in the loss, as it crushed the Lady Rams’ momentum and gave the Blue Hens scoring chances, which they capitalized on.
With the loss, West Chester takes the runner up position in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union, but leave behind a solid fall season.
The season opened up with a tough game against Penn State. The PSU Lady Ruggers are an annual match-up for the Lady Rams, always a tough battle. Penn State was last year’s defending National champions, and are usually a lock for a Final Four appearance.
WCU came out fresh off of last season’s upset in Nationals, and fought Penn State with a vengeance. The Lady Rams gave a solid showing in the game, but the outcome was not in their favor, as the Lady Ruggers took the match 42-7.
West Chester used that defeat as motivation for the rest of the season, as they came out the next week hungry for victory. The team hosted American University, and in front of their home crowd, the Lady Rams rugby squad laid down a beating, winning by a final score of 79-5.
The team scored 14 total tries in the game, as Megan Lamm converted seven of them, as well as a penalty kick.
WCU’s next game was their first EPRU match-up of the season, against Delaware. This was the heartbreaking game where West Chester let up only six points, but were only able to score one unconverted try themselves, losing by one point.
They made up for that loss the next week as Maryland University came to town. West Chester once again laid down a beating, topping the visiting Terapins 34-10.
After Maryland, West Chester took on their second conference team of the season in Princeton. The Tigers have been WCU’s biggest rival the past decade, always being the match-up in the championships. Just last year, West Chester won in a dramatic second half over Princeton, scoring 27 unanswered points to come back and win the EPRU championship.
This year was not nearly as dramatic, as West Chester pounced on the sitting Tigers, scoring 53 points and letting up nothing, pushing their record to the winning mark at 3-2 on the season.
The last regular season game was against Shippensburg, the last EPRU game of the year. In another low scoring close affair, West Chester lost to Shipp by a score of 14-7, only one try between them. That placed WCU third in the division, facing Shippensburg once again the next week in playoffs, where they had their exciting last minute victory.
So for the first time in four years, West Chester is not an Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union champion, which makes the road to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen tournament that much harder.
Each spring, West Chester competes in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) tournament in an attempt to get into the NCAA’s. Had they won the championship last weekend, like the past three years, they would have received a top four seed in that tournament, making their first game somewhat easier against a lower seed. But because they lost to Delaware, they have a seeding in the lower part of the bracket, and will most likely face someone like Penn State or Navy in the quarterfinals, which will be a huge challenge for the Lady Rams.
They have a lot of work ahead of them, but the team has the talent, experience, and fundamentals to make their fourth straight appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.
Senior Sasha Stauffer will be leaving the team this winter, as she is graduating in December. She has enjoyed four years on the team, and proved to be an adequate leader. She was one of the team’s captains last season as a junior. She has left a charge to the team going into the spring campaign.
“I want the team to remember why they came to play rugby,” Stauffer said. “Also, it’s about determination, hard work, and most importantly, team work; you can’t play rugby without the support of the team.”
To the seniors, Stauffer said, “I want to remind the seniors to enjoy their final season of play as a WCU rugger as I have.”
Stauffer’s presence on the field will be greatly missed in the upcoming semester of play, but the team must go on. They have the talent to fill in the gaps left by her.
Rugby is one of the only sports that plays in both the fall and spring at the collegiate level. It is also one of the most demanding of sports. The team will gear up next January and February, and begin games again most likely in March, where they make another bid for an NCAA appearance.
Ryan Frisco is a third-year student majoring in Communication studies. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.