Spotlight Player of The Week: Naya Tapper

Naya Tapper has been itching to play rugby ever since her high school days. Her high school offered the opportunity but she was busy with track and could not join the team. Once Tapper came to the University of North Carolina, she finally go to play rugby and flourished.

It all started when Tapper saw rugby being promoted on the UNC quad. She explained, “After graduating high school, I decided I wanted to stop running track after having ran for 6 years of my life. I had much success with track but decided to try something new. I saw girls promoting rugby in the quad at UNC and decided I would try out. The rest is history.” From there Tapper took off as one of the top players for the Tar Heels.

Rugby has changed Tapper’s life and her career path. She originally wanted to pursue a degree in exercise and sports science and find a career in physical therapy but rugby completely changed tappers mind and outlook on her future. ” I always told myself that I never wanted to play a professional sport. That I just wanted to focus on getting my degree in EXSS and my doctorate in physical therapy, getting a financial stable job, and starting a family. After playing rugby that changed. I fell in love with the sport and with motivation from my coach, I have decided that I want to play pro rugby, but only after I graduate from UNC with a bachelors degree,” said, Tapper.

Tapper looks to turn the corner on a Virginia Tech defender. Photo by Katy Folk.
Tapper looks to turn the corner on a Virginia Tech defender. Photo by Katy Folk.

The experiences Tapper has had with UNC women’s rugby have been nothing short of phenomenal. She is thankful for her amazing coach and teammates that have supported her through her college career. She said, “Playing for UNC has been a great pleasure. I first of all get to work with an amazing coach, Johnathan Atkeison. I appreciate him dearly and all the motivation he gives me to improve in the sport and follow my dreams of being a pro rugby player one day. I also get to play with some amazing ladies who have taught me what it truly means to be on an actual team. Overall, experiences playing rugby with UNC is incredible. I feel we are breaking barriers as a team and I wouldn’t choose to do it with anyone else.”

While playing for UNC, Tapper has had many memorable moments but her favorite is when she helped a new player score her first try by committing a very selfless play. Tapper explained, “During a game, I scored a good amount of times. I was being supported by one of our new wings, Jessica Hollando. She hadn’t scored yet this season and was still getting used to the game. During a play I received the ball and ran it basically into the try zone. I had a chance to score but instead I passed it to her in the try zone in order for her to score. She did!” Tapper not only is a star player but her selfless and dedication is something to admire.

We wish Tapper and the rest of the UNC women’s team the best of luck with the rest of their spring season!