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The Carletonian

Victory for the underdogs: Carleton’s women’s rugby finishes second undefeated season, wins Regional Tournament

<rty-two girls on the roster for the Carleton Women’s Rugby Football Club, almost all of them awoke at 5 a.m. on Saturday, April 26 to high winds and a building snowstorm anticipating the worst at their upcoming tournament. Forwards co-captain Mallory Hoffman ’08 said she had “no doubts whatsoever,” but for most of the team, winning the regional All-Saints tournament in St. Cloud, Minn. was an unbelievable, thrilling victory.

The women’s rugby team has come a long way in recent years. In the fall of 2005, they lost their coach and every game they played. Last spring, they were challenged for their spot in the division and trounced in a crushing match. Now, they are finishing a second undefeated season in a row.

In the fall, Carleton won the Minnesota Rugby Union Division III Championship. Last week the team beat the College of St. Benedict with a whopping 67-0 to regain their spot in Division II. On Sunday morning, despite being scored on for the first time this season, they secured a spot in the championship match against Minnesota’s select U-19 team. With a score of 43-0, Carleton achieved a championship victory at the largest rugby tournament in the upper Midwest. “I am incredibly proud,” backs captain Amanda Hess ’08 said.

The All-Saints Tournament, hosted annually by St. Cloud State University, attracts teams from all over the region, sometimes from as far as Nebraska and Michigan. Generally, Carleton teams go for the camaraderie and team-bonding. “The only game we ever won at All-Saints was against University of Wisconsin River Falls. They usually don’t have a full team,” explains inside center player Caitlin Fleming ’09 . The last time Carleton performed especially well at All-Saints was in 2000.

This year, the tournament began on fields covered in three inches of snow. “We were so nervous going in,” said outside center Bessie Schwarz ’08, “We were the first team to play. Everyone had been up since five in the morning. The snow was coming down, piling on, everybody was covered in snow. Some people said they couldn’t see the ball, which was also white,” Schwarz said, “Literally, every game we go into, we assume we’re the underdogs.”

However, Carleton won both the first game against St. Cloud State 24-0 and their second game against Minnesota State University-Moorehead 27-0. By Sunday morning the weather was nicer, though the team was down a few players lost to injuries and hypothermia sustained on Saturday. Carleton beat the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse 34-10 and went on to win their fourth game in 30 hours in the championship match.

Their success is due in major part to Coach Rebecca “Reebok” Radtke, who has been with the team for about a year. Last spring, Radtke and former Carleton rugby player Linda Morrison ’00 started coming to a few practices. Hoffman said the change in leadership has made all the difference, “We just have a different mentality this year.” Other team members also cite their increased understanding of the game, their heightened field sense, and a great team dynamic.

Few of the members of the Carleton women’s rugby team had touched a rugby ball before coming to Carleton. This weekend featured many impressive performances by players who demonstrated their tenacity, versatility, and commitment to the team. For Fleming, the highlight of the weekend was “watching our veterans play unbelievably well and knowing our rookies will be just as fantastic.”
The women’s team has one match left this season, a “friendly” against St. Olaf on Saturday, May 3, at 11 am on the fields behind the Rec Center. It will be a bittersweet finish to the season, as the team will graduate seven dedicated seniors in June. However, Hoffman says she will be playing rugby “until I physically can’t do it anymore,” and the rest of the team looks forward to maintaining their undefeated status in the seasons to come. “This is amazing,” remarks Hess. “We once again came together as a team and put everything into achieving this (previously laughable) goal. I am so happy that the seniors will be leaving the team in very capable hands.”

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