The Spring Hill College Women’s rugby team is currently in their sophomore season and are quickly growing, not only as a team, but helping grow women’s rugby in the south.
The team was started during the fall semester of 2013 by ex-Spring Hill coach Mollie McCarthy. McCarthy quickly grew the team and soon they boasted over 20 players for their fall season. The team played Tulane, William Carey, and others for exhibition matches and they took 2nd place during the inaugural Spring Hill 7’s tournament. The team had a impressive first year.
At the end of the Spring 2014 season, McCarthy announced she was taking the women’s head coaching job at the University of Colorado. Then, after a nation wide search, Spring Hill announced Justin Goonan would takeover as head men’s and women’s rugby coach for Spring Hill.
So far in 2014 the women’s program has struggled to find matches due to the unavailability and cancellation of opponents. They finally were able to face competition at the 2014 Battleship Invitational Tournament where they played hard and were able to take away a lot from the weekend.
The lack of match play will all change at the beginning of the spring semester as the team will become apart of the Southern Independent Rugby Conference which is women’s division two conference. The team will play against the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, Clemson, and others.
Coach Goonan, along with the women’s team, is excited to have a real competitive season. Coach Goonan was happy with the women’s performance at the battleship tournament and feels it will help transition into their inaugural season. “The recent tournament play gave our players the experience and, more importantly, confidence that they can be very competitive. The first conference season will be a learning experience for this young team. Playing regular matches on a weekly basis, along with the training and travel schedule, will require sacrifice and dedication from the entire roster,” said Goonan.
Sophomore Kiva Talty has been a staple for the rugby program at Spring Hill. From taking photos of games,(you can view her work HERE), to leading the team on the field, she has been a major part of the program.
“I was actually forced into joining rugby initially. Former player Mary Boeckmann and I had become friends freshman year, and she dragged me to a practice. I had never played rugby before, so it was a shock but also intrigued me a lot. I took an interest to it really quickly and after that, I didn’t need any dragging to get to practice,” said Talty.
Along with Talty, senior Amber Rowland, has a passion for the game and has enjoyed her experience playing for Spring Hill. She said, “My experience with rugby has been life changing. It has created life-long memories and friendships. It has pushed to become a better woman as well. It teaches me sacrifice and humility.” Rowland continued, “Rugby has most definitely changed my life! It pushes me everyday both mentally and physically. With rugby, I have grown into a better individual and leader.”
The overall sport of rugby is still struggling to grow in the south, especially women’ rugby. Talty and Rowland both agree that the sport is not only for men and can be a rewarding experience for all those who take up the sport.
Rowland explains, “Women’s Rugby needs to grow to only to spread this great sport, but change a woman’s life. The entire team becomes your family. whether it be your teammates or your opposition, those women are forever your life long sisters. You play together, fight together, bleed together, win and lose, cry and laugh all together. Rugby fosters personal growth and learning. I, myself, have grown through rugby and become a stronger woman inside and out. Rugby pushes you to new limits everyday, every practice, and game. You are constantly learning new techniques and history about the game you had no idea existed, and this too makes you cherish the game even more. Rugby can be for anyone and everyone. There is no certain “type”. There is a position for every type, size, personality etc., Rugby doesn’t judge. I want all women and men to be able to experience such things, because rugby is too good to keep to ourselves!”
Talty added, “Women’s rugby is a different kind of sport, and rare in it’s kind. There are very few sports that put rules, game play, and athleticism on the same level as men, and rugby is one of them. I’m not trying to sound like an advertisement for joining, but when you join a team like the one we have at Spring Hill, you’re putting yourself into something more than just a team—we’re a family, we trust each other, we depend on each other and we have the same drive. It’s a unique experience to find such strength, both physically and mentally, in a team like this.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for the lady badgers as they look to make an impact in their first season in their new conference.