The Roger Williams University women’s rugby program will be retiring their “club” status after next season.
On Friday, Feb. 3, the Roger Williams University Athletic Department announced the women’s club rugby team will become a full-time varsity sport in the 2018-19 academic year.
“The announcement of the team going varsity is a great achievement for our program,” said Head Coach Kevin Martel. “It really speaks volumes to the success that these women have had, especially over the last few years.”
Since the rugby program was introduced in 2007-08, the team has enjoyed unprecedented success, posting winning seasons in all but one year of the program, a 2-2 mark during the 2011-12 season. However, the team can be best measured on their championship pedigree, claiming two national championships in 2007 and 2014.
In the ’07 run, RWU showcased a dominance that is rare in any first-year sporting program, going a perfect 8-0 on the season while outscoring its opponents 225-27. They defeated Gettysburg College 29-7 for the New England Rugby Football Union Division IV national championship. In the 2014 campaign, the team steamrolled their opponents to a perfect 9-0 record, ending the season with a 45-10 victory over Sacred Heart University in the National Small College Rugby Association national championship.
Besides the undeniable success that’s come for this team on the field, it’s been the relationships formed on and off it that have defined the program. Even further, being part of the rugby team has been the defining aspect of the college experience at RWU for many of the players.
“This team has honestly kept me at this school,” said sophomore Lindsey Armstrong. “I am certain that I speak for a lot of us when I say that the women’s rugby team has been the reason for so many of us to stay here at RWU. It’s become a family and a support system that I am so grateful for. I’ve never experienced a closer bond. Maybe it has to do with pushing someone off your tackle’s teammate to protect them and the ball, but it’s definitely something special.”
Sophomore Rebecca Gow is another member of the team who’s said the rugby team has defined her RWU experience.
“Although I am only a sophomore, the rugby team has become my family and joining has allowed me to meet some of my best friends at Roger Williams,” Gow said. “Rugby has quickly become a huge part of my life here and I can’t imagine college without it. I look forward to every practice and game. I am extremely thankful and happy for the upperclassmen and alumni, as they have helped make me the player that I am today. They have also played a huge role in getting us to where we are now and afforded us with this amazing opportunity.”
With the promotion from a club to varsity sport, Martel expressed excitement over the amount of resources the team will have access to going forward.
“Going varsity will give our program the opportunity to grow like never before,” Martel said. “We will have access to facilities and equipment that will provide invaluable to our athletes.”
The program will be governed under the auspice of the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association, an affiliate organization of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. There are currently 18 varsity programs in New England, including Commonwealth Coast Conference member University of New England.
Although the news of moving up to a varsity program is exciting to Armstrong, she says that there is much work and winning to be done before then.
“I expect to see our team grow and become stronger,” Armstrong said. “We aren’t just going to wait for the 2018 season to roll around to get into shape. We are starting now to condition the team as a whole for that time. Hopefully that will have a positive influence on our tournaments this spring, especially the Beast of the East.”