For a club sports team with limited funding and resources, it’s hard to build a successful program. It’s even harder to sustain any sort of success that is had.
But when the program’s foundation is ripped it from under itself like a carpet, it’s nearly impossible.
That’s what happened to the Shippensburg University women’s rugby team when it was suspended for the Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters for violating university hazing policies.
“The hardest part has been getting over the negative effects it brought,” said club Vice President Alyssa Boyd. “It was hard to get our name out there in a positive way.”
With a storied history dating back to 1983 — including Division II National Championship titles in 2008 and 2009 — the club was forced to rebuild itself from the ground up.
After losing its status as a D-II women’s rugby program, the club has spent the past two seasons playing in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference (MARC) of the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO).
The club plays a regular season schedule in both the fall and spring semesters that features matchups with local schools. It enjoyed a successful 3-1 fall season, taking victories over Marywood and Scranton Universities before dropping a close game to East Stroudsburg University. The club finished its fall season Saturday with a 15-0 shutout victory over Susquehanna University.
The 25-woman roster practices two days each week, in addition to organized workouts, distance runs and sprint sessions.
“We do require a lot of outside work to be put in because rugby is such an intense sport that requires a lot of strength and fitness,” said Maria Stacey, captain of the club team.
A year-and-a-half removed from its suspension, the program is starting to thrive again.
“We’re growing and getting better because more girls are coming out for the team,” said club President Maddy Werner. “The girls we have this season have come really far.”
“We have a good reputation now, and it’s not just through the school. It’s through the MARC as well. We’re getting noticed, even by our referees. Coaches from other teams are recognizing us again. We’re starting to make moves, and not just here, but outside of here, too.”
Rebuilding any program is hard to do, and the road ahead will have its fair share of obstacles. But the growth within the past year-and-a-half has gone a long way in showing what these women are all about.
“We just want other students and the university as a whole to see us,” Boyd said. “A group of young women who just want to share our love of rugby with others.”