The WSU women’s club rugby team has done it again, winning their second national championship in the last four years May 4 in Stanford, Calif., defeating Winona State 60-5.
The road to the championship included a 61-10 victory over Utah Valley University in the Sweet Sixteen, a 61-10 thrashing of California State Northridge in the Elite Eight, as well as a dominant 62-0 performance against the University at Buffalo in the Final Four.
“This championship is absolutely a testament to the players’ hard work and plenty of effort from the players,” Head Coach Conor Bollinger-Smith said. “I’ve not been around a lot of teams that have players as committed as this. The players earned this championship.”
The championship was the cap to an undefeated season for WSU. The season went from September through May and marked the fifth continuous year the team competed in nationals.
Contrary to the score, the trip to the Final Four was not easy. The team’s performance was on par, but the funding was difficult to collect.
As a club sport, the Cougar rugby women needed to find a way to raise $17,000 for the trip to the Final Four match-ups in Stanford, Calif.
In addition to mailing donation request letters and accepting donations online, the team received support from The Coug in Pullman and a loan from University Recreation.
“We did really well with fundraising,” said senior captain Megan Bonny.
Currently the team is focused on getting their finances back in the black for next season, when they make the move from Division II to Division I.
“They think we have a bigger pool of people to recruit from, so we will be moving to Division I,” Bonny said. “Which is fine, because our scores from this year were pretty lopsided. I think our team should be in Division I.”
Despite losing a large number of graduating seniors last year, USA Rugby ranked the Cougars at No. 1 at the beginning of the season.
“We also had a lot of girls returning,” Bonny said. “We were looking towards that national title. We knew how to get there, knew how to achieve that and we thought we still had the talent to do it.”
Bonny and fellow captain Mileka Grager are both in their fifth year with the program. They decided to forgo walking at graduation to compete in the Final Four this past weekend.
Bonny and Grager have been a part of two national championship squads.
“It was just as exciting as it was the first time,” Grager said. “I felt like it might not be quite as cool. It definitely was just as exciting. This is the best possible way to close out my rugby career, my college career at WSU.”
The championship should help the team with their move into Division I in the 2013-14 season.
“Winning this championship, I think that gave everyone a good morale boost into next year,” Grager said.
From the beginning of the season to the last practice before their championship match-up, Bollinger-Smith said the team improved every day.
“From day one basically, our goal was to raise a championship trophy at the end of the season,” Bollinger-Smith said. “There’s no other reason to be out there practicing that hard if that’s not our goal.”