By virtue of its fall 2006 undefeated season during which it captured the New England Rugby Football Union’s Division IV club team title, the squad earned the right to play for the national title this spring.
In late April, the Rams traveled to Philadelphia and crushed Ursinus College 36-5 for the national title.
Kathryn Hutchings, club sports coordinator at URI, said the team has been going through a rebuilding process during the past several years, and until last year, did not have a coach. She credited this year’s coaching staff with developing a group that worked well together.
“I am very proud of their accomplishments, and it was great to travel to the national championships and see them win the title,” Hutchings said.
Like other club athletes at URI, women’s rugby players pay a fee to play and conduct fund-raisers to cover travel and other team expenses. Practicing outdoors during the heart of winter is common, and so is training on a parking lot when fields are unplayable.
By the mid-point of the fall season, the players realized that they had a chance to have one of the most successful seasons in recent women’s rugby annals.
They opened with a scoreless tie against Roger Williams University and then won four in a row against Holy Cross, the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Connecticut College and Brandeis.
On Nov. 5, the Rams faced undefeated Springfield College for the New England Division IV title. Going into the game, Springfield had outscored opponents 150-7. None of that mattered to the Rams, as they pounded Springfield, 46-12. The win propelled them into the national title.
Before that however, the Rams played in several spring tournaments, the largest being the Beast of the East Tournament in Portsmouth, R.I. Playing in the Division III bracket, the Rams dropped Hamilton College, the 2006 New York State Division III champs, 39-0, and Wentworth Institute, 33-10. In the semifinals, Rhody defeated the University of Hartford, 10-0, giving the squad a berth in the tournament title match.
Prior to the spring, URI had never won a single game in the Beast of East, but it came away the champion by overtaking Holy Cross, 29-0.
Head coach Nate Godfrey, a Narragansett resident, played rugby with the Providence Rugby Football Club, and worked with four friends– Brian Moore, Skip Barry, Mike “Mung” DeGiulio, and Patrick Jaquet—to coach the team.
“We walked into a super situation with a ton of good athletes,” Godfrey said. “This is a group of 25 women and each is a terrific person and a dedicated rugger. They were into it from the start, and you could see the progress each week. They took care of all of the off-field stuff, the paperwork to get us squared way with the rugby union, referees fees, getting the fields ready, having a medical kit and trainer on the sideline. They got all of this done so the coaches could focus on training and game preparation.”
Godfrey had special praise for the team captains are Maura O’Keefe and Kristin Skelly, and team President Ann Marie Sullivan. “They are excellent leaders both on and off the field,” Godfrey said.
Because of the success this year, the team is going to move up to Division III. “This is a group of women who will be able to compete in every game at the D-III level.”
The members of this year’s squad were: Jessica Morse of Riverside, Lauren Creamer of Narragansett, Lauren Magness of Summit, N.J., Bethany Gillette of Unity, Maine, Miriam Sandberg of Silver Spring, Md., Bekkah Wigton of Jamestown, Christie Moulton of Northampton, Mass., Kristin Skelly of Leeds, N.Y., Ann Marie Sullivan of West Granby, Conn., Maura O’Keefe of Oakham, Mass., Fotine Mitsis of Fall River, Mass., Emily Blair of Clinton Township, Miss., Elise Wilson of Bristol, Conn., Jenny Sayles of Warwick, Ashley Gregson of North Providence, Aileen Ash of Narragansett, Karen Szymczak of Grafton, Mass., Sanna Osseyran of Warren, Mass., Kasey Jenness of Rehoboth, Mass., Elisabeth Nangle of Harrisville, R.I., Allison Musgrove of Wallingford, Conn., Elizabeth Santillo of Niskayuna, N.Y. and Kerri Farrell of Little Compton, R.I..
NATIONAL CHAMPS: Players and coaches from the University of Rhode Island’s women’s rugby club pose after their national title match in Philadelphia. The Rams captured the national Division IV club title. Photo courtesy Nate Godfrey