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Women's Rugby

2015-16 UMW Women's Rugby in Review

2015-16 UMW Women's Rugby in Review

The year 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Mary Washington Women's Rugby team.  In its previous season, the team was coming off an unsuccessful attempt to defend the National Champion title they secured in 2014.  However, hopes were high as the team learned they had recently been moved from Rec Sports to UMW Athletics.  The prospect of additional recognition and support from the school was encouraging to both players and alumni.  On top of that, the team was looking forward to playing on the newly resurfaced field.

A recent reorganization of the structure within USA Rugby resulted in the dissolving of the Virginia Rugby Union and the Mid-Atlantic territory.  After the dissolvent of the VRU and MARFU, the women's rugby team began competing in the newly formed Capital Conference.  Attempting to meet the needs of the USA Rugby reorganization, the Capital Conference shuffled its structure of the Women Collegiate portion for the third time in 3 years.  The 2015-2016 season saw the Conference broken into 3 Divisions, with Mary Washington competing in the Capital Central Division with George Washington University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, and St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Competing in the Capital North Division were Salisbury University, Towson University, University Maryland - Baltimore County, American University, and Catholic University.  Competing in the Capital South Division were the College of William & Mary, Longwood University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Old Dominion University.

The season started well for the UMW women's rugby team, as they won 45-0 over Old Dominion University in a tune-up for the league season.  The tune-up was what the team needed, as they beat Georgetown University 75-0 the following week.  The team lost a little of its focus in mid-season due to a 4 week gap in match play.  A miscue by Virginia Commonwealth University forced the cancellation of a match, weather postponed a match, and then fall break interrupted the season.  The team was given a wake-up call when a match with George Washington gave UMW a scare.  Although UMW won 32-24, they were fortunate to win a match that reflected their lack of focus and play in the previous 4 weeks.  Regaining their drive, UMW was able to win the next 3 matches against George Mason, St. Mary's, and the local women's club Rappahannock.  Going into the Capital Conference playoffs, UMW sat atop their Division.

The Capital Conference playoffs were hosted by Mary Washington for the third consecutive time.  Winning the previous 2 playoffs, UMW was hoping to win for a third time, knowing their big rival would probably be Salisbury University.  Playing in the Capital Conference semifinals were Mary Washington versus VCU and Salisbury versus George Washington.  Victories by UMW and Salisbury advanced the same the teams to the finals for the third consecutive year.  Although Mary Washington scored first in the finals, Salisbury's determination and tenacity kept them in match, eventually putting them ahead of UMW.  The game was kept close, within one scoring opportunity, until the end.  With minutes to play, Salisbury broke free, going ahead and winning the Capital Conference Finals 31-17.

Even though Mary Washington did not win the conference, their play was good enough that when At-Large playoff bids were to be awarded by USA Rugby, the team thought they would have a shot of appearing again in the USA Rugby National Playoffs.  Therefore, the goal for the spring was to work hard and stay focused on impressing USA Rugby.

The start of the spring season was difficult for UMW.  Weather forced the cancellation of several practices and two matches.  The team was only unable to get one match prior to Spring Break-a victory against Rappahannock.  After Spring Break the team reeled off a series of wins against the University Maryland Baltimore County, American University, Catholic University, and George Washington University.  This was exactly what the team needed to convince USA Rugby to award an At-Large bid to Mary Washington.  Additionally, USA Rugby turned to Mary Washington for help.  Apparently, Virginia Tech had just back-up out of their agreement to host the Women's Collegiate D2 Regional playoffs.  The team quickly accepted the request and moved forward with putting everything into place required by USA Rugby to host the regional playoffs.

The USA Rugby Regional Round of 16 saw 3 teams travel to Mary Washington – the University of South Carolina, the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, and Salisbury University.  Both Mary Washington and Salisbury won their semifinal matches, establishing a rematch of the two teams involved in the Capital Conference finals.  Unfortunately for Mary Washington, Salisbury had a much better command of the match that day.  In the end, Salisbury saw its largest margin of victory ever over Mary Washington as they topped them 48-14.

After the playoffs, the team decided to enter the Cherry Blossom Festival tournament.  The tournament weekend was a way to play a last few matches with and say "farewell" to the graduating seniors.  The tournament went moderately well for UMW.  They beat UMBC and North Carolina State to advance to the tournament semifinals.  The team's fortune ended with a defeat by the hands of the University of Pittsburgh.

Even though the team did not experience the same fairytale ending it saw two years ago, they did reach the USA Rugby National Playoffs for the tenth time, more than any Women's Collegiate D2 team in the country.  Plus, there was a lot of excitement and encouragement from the returning players for the coming 2016-2017 season.  The team is looking forward to the added opportunities is now has under UMW Athletics.  This fall, for the first time, Mary Washington Women's Rugby is looking to host a rugby clinic for middle and high school girls – showcasing what the school and the team has to offer.