Penn State Women’s Rugby Takes The World By Storm
Founded in 1962, women’s rugby is one of Penn State’s most successful team sports. With nine national championships under its belt and five wins already this season, it’s well on the way to gaining its tenth, even taking its talents overseas.
And that is a task much easier said than done. The life of a rugger is not easy. Players attend night conditioning, practices, and lifting throughout the week like any other athlete, but ruggers aren’t like many other athletes. No practices or workouts are mandatory for them; instead, the players are held personally accountable for their attendance and effort. It is their dedication to their team and their future success that drives them to attend everyday and give it their all.
Some standouts on the team who received high praise from president Katie Mueller are captain Bitsy Cairns and selectors Lauren Shissler and Hope Rogers. She said another player to watch is Meya Bizer, who contributes her knowledge and skill from being a member of the USA Eagles.
“Great leaders on and off the field,” Mueller said. “They all put in extra work to watch film and take the time to help out individual players.”
This year, the team has gone through some noticeable changes. In addition to the yearly roster rotation, head coach Pete Steinberg left on sabbatical this season. But his replacement, alumna Kate Daley, has made the transition as smooth as possible with a fresh perspective and abundance of knowledge. Like Bizer, she is a member of the USA Eagles and recently returned from the Women’s Rugby World Cup. Mueller attributes the seamless transition between head coaches to the various other assistants that worked with both Steinberg and Daley.
As mentioned above, the rubgy team enjoys its sightseeing. Due to its success, it travels internationally every spring break, this year playing two games in Spain. The Nittany Lions dropped Spanish rugby union clubs Unió Esportiva Santboiana and INEF in Barcelona by a combined score of 77-15.
“Traveling internationally during spring break is probably my favorite time of the year,” Mueller said. “Not only do I get to sight see in a foreign country and play rugby games against European teams, but I get to spend 10 days with my 50 best friends. When we play games against these teams it gives us a challenge because they are generally bigger, faster and more physical than us so it forces us to play rugby at another level.”
Due to the travel and practice commitments the team bonds closer than many other sports.
“The family bond that takes place with a rugby team is unlike any other team I’ve played on before,” Mueller said. “It’s more than just the 15 players that are out on the field, but every teammate standing on the sidelines, every teammate that pushed you at practice that didn’t have the opportunity to travel, every parent that comes to the game or supports from afar, every alumni that knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.”
“It’s not just 15 vs. 15, it’s 300-plus vs. 15.”
Looking forward to the rest of its season and beyond, the team is focused on maintaining its intense dedication. That has been the key to its success and an integral part of the players’ relationships on and off the field.
“Our team’s personality is unlike any other,” Mueller said. “It is not an elitist sport, not every player is recruited, we have a lot of walk-ons. Each player has their own unique background. For some, playing for PSUWRFC was the first time they touched a rugby ball, and within a year they traveled to the National Championship. This team not only produces excellent rugby players, it produces excellent women.”
Penn State’s next scheduled game is April 11 at home at West Campus Fields with the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s Invitational May 29-31 at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
Image: Katie Mueller