Women’s Rugby Team Places Fourth In National Championship

By: Griffin Nelson, nelsongr@mnstate.edu

The final weeks of school are a total scrum. The MSUM women’s rugby team is well-acquainted with that messiness.

The Hummerz, the women’s rugby club on campus, wrapped up their season with a trip to the National Small College Rugby Organization National Championships in Atlanta the weekend of Dec. 1. It was the first trip to nationals for the Dragons since their championship run in 2015.

They took fourth in Georgia, losing in the first round to Wayne State College, who has now won three straight national championships.

It wasn’t the way the team wanted to finish the season, but the future looks bright. The Hummerz fielded nine rookies. Not even six months ago, they had never touched a “footie.”

Most members join with little-to-no relation to the sport. Tori Teske and Chantell Mindt, two members of the team, hadn’t even sniffed a pitch before arriving on MSUM’s campus.

“I went to Rec Fest last year and went to the Rugby booth just to get raffle tickets,” Teske, a criminal justice major from Clinton, Minnesota, said. “The next Wednesday, I was practicing. And then I competed in the tournament that Saturday.”

In America, rugby is largely considered “football without the pads.” Each team fields fifteen players, usually split into two position groups: “backies” and “packies.” “Packies” are typically larger, left in charge of tackling and securing the ball for the quicker, more elusive “backies” looking to move the ball down the field towards the end zone.

There are no forward passes allowed, only backward laterals; however, you’re allowed to kick the ball forward to a teammate, a tactic Mindt and Teske try to utilize constantly.

The Hummerz compete in a preseason tournament featuring shortened halves and unlimited timeouts and substitutions.

Mindt, a biology major from Mandan, North Dakota, believes the tournament allows the many newcomers a chance to digest the game before the real competitions start.

“You sort of learn best with that ‘trial by fire’ atmosphere,” Mindt said. “You can’t really understand it all until you are thrown into the mix.”

Teske believes that participating in a club sport forces people to be sociable, keeps you in shape and helps people be active members of campus life.

When recruiting players from the student body, Coach Athena Aitken, or “Colorado” as the team refers to her, says there’s no cookie-cutter rugby player. In her six years of coaching, she’s only taken on two players with previous rugby experience.

“We accept any and all women onto the team, regardless of past athletic endeavors,” Aitken said. “As long as they are willing to learn this new sport of rugby, and give up a few Saturday mornings, they can be part of the team.”

Aitken sees the culture of accountability blended with an eagerness to learn as a basis of their program’s recent success.

The team’s efforts reach past the pitch. From working WeFest toMSUM concession stands, the Hummerz partake in numerous fundraising activities in order to finance apparel and travel expenditures.

For their trip to Atlanta, the team had to secure funds from the MSUM Student Senate. They were extended only a fraction of what they were seeking, but found a way to salvage the rest of the money between team members in order to afford the trip.

“It was an amazing team-bonding experience,” Mindt said. “We learned a lot about ourselves. And you got to love 60 degree weather.”

Mindt, standing approximately five feet tall, feels empowered by participating in such a violent, gritty sport.

“Football players always brag about how cool their sport is,” Mindt said. “I always wanted to play, but this sport’s even cooler. You’re given no pads, a mouthguard and you just go at it for 80 minutes.”

If you would like to learn more about the Hummerz and how to participate, visit their Facebook page at @MSUMWomensRugby. 

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