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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Women’s Rugby team surpasses Division II

During a game opener, the women’s rugby team battles for the ball. Photo credit: Makayla Hopkins

While rugby is still a fairly unknown sport it is the only Division I sport that is affiliated with Chico State.

Rugby has not been an Olympic sport since 1924, but because of its recent induction into the 2016 Olympics, it has put the sport on the map.

The Chico State team begins its season in January but trains throughout the year to foster camaraderie and uphold the standard of excellence it has set for itself.

A leading forward on the team, Andrea Velazquez, stated that the team began as a club sport but became school affiliated only recently.

“We have impressive talent, and only recently has become a part of the athletic program in 1998,” Velazquez.

Even though the team has only recently become school affiliated, the accomplishments of the team over the past several seasons stand as a testament to its abilities, according to Velazquez.

“We have a championship title under our belt and multiple appearances at nationals,” Velazquez said.

The success of the team has caused it to rapidly expand over the last few seasons, according to coach Mary Triantafyllou.

“There was 30 new players this Fall, which gives the team 50 players on the roster. It’s the largest team of rugby we have ever had,” Triantafyllou said.

Most college rugby teams compete with larger teams of 15. While Chico State’s team will be competing this way in the spring, it mostly competes in qualifiers during the fall, with Olympic-sized teams of 7.

The change of pace for the team allows for a rotation of star players and emphasizes the individual player’s abilities, according to Triantafyllou.

“This usually requires the use of the flashier and faster players and less of the bigger players, but it definitely helps with the 15’s,” Triantafyllou said.

Although the two types of games are very different, the Wildcats have been able to succeed in both as they are ranked in the top-10 in the nation for both 15’s and 7’s.

Flanker Ashley von Bargen said that she thinks the team’s performance relies on the early indicators from their preseason.

“Our 15’s team beat Cal State Berkeley and Colusa in the preseason matches so far. The 7’s team went to a tournament in San Luis Obispo and came back undefeated,” Bargen said.

Since it is still the preseason, the team has been focusing on practices and scrimmages to perfect the skills of their many new players. The team has also been a part of several tournaments this Fall.

The Wildcats won all three games in the tournament this past weekend in Santa Barbara, maintaining their undefeated record.

Although the team has plenty to celebrate, it has already shifted focus to the next game, according to Bargen.

“This weekend we plan on taking W’s at the fall qualifier for nationals at Stanford University”, Bargen said.

Cydney Nance can be reached at [email protected] or @CydneyNa on Twitter.

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