The Women’s Cougar rugby team kicks off league play Saturday, Oct. 13, as they travel to Albuquerque to take on the University of New Mexico.
The Cougars are coming off a Final Four finish last season at the USA Rugby Women’s Division I College playoffs in April. The team lost to the eventual national champions, Penn State, and had four players named to the All-America team.
Senior team captain and 2012 All-American Rebekah Siebach said the Cougars are hoping to capitalize on last year’s success to kick off this season.
“We played together last year, so we have really good chemistry,” Siebach said. “I think we’re a very strong team. We work hard; we’re a very aggressive team. We’re known for how physical we are on the field, so we just want to be able to keep it up and maintain it.”
Sophomore vice-captain Jordan Gray said the returning players and newcomers are able to play off each other to create a close team dynamic.
“I think we have a lot of good returners that know the game,” Gray said. “But we also have girls with fresh skills that are good, too. So it’s a good mix.”
The Cougars will play four league games this fall. The results will determine where they will be seeded in April. Last fall, the team won all of their league games and automatically qualified for the tournament.
According to head coach Tom Waqa – who was named United States Olympic Committee Volunteer Coach of the Year last season – the team has consistently been ranked in the top 10 teams in the nation. He attributes the Cougars’ success to their values and principles.
“We have a tight-knit group. Their strength is that they share the same standards and beliefs,” Waqa said. “We’re like a big family and when we go out to play, we play like a family. That is the strength that we have; there are benefits that come with honoring the BYU honor code and we take advantage of that.”
Gray echoed Waqa’s sentiment.
“We play with a lot of heart and you can tell that we are bonded because we work as a team and not individually,” Gray said. “Not only do we have a bond on the field, but we have a bond off the field as well. There aren’t a lot of tensions between the girls at all. It makes it fun.”
The Cougars will be on the road Oct. 13 against UNM and again on Oct. 27 against Colorado State University. They will play in Provo on Oct. 20 against Air Force and again on Nov. 3 against Colorado University. Both home games are scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be played at Fort Utah Park in Provo.
“Everyone always jokes about how much they want to see girls get aggressive and hit each other, so if you want to see that, come out,” Siebach laughed. “It’s just a really fun sport to watch.”
The team is coming off a 114-7 victory over Utah State on Sept. 22. While Waqa was pleased with the result, he said there is still work to be done.
“I was happy with what I saw,” Waqa said about the game. “There was cohesion, there was continuity. Our defense was good and shut them down to one try. … Overall it was a good performance, but we can be a little complacent and we have to work harder to be at the level we left off last year.”
Gray and Siebach said the purpose of fall season is to improve and prepare the team for the spring tournament.
“We are working on a really solid defense right now, so we’re trying to make it so our back line is really unbreakable,” Gray said. “We’re also working on our ruck so we can keep the ball on our side and prevent turnovers. We’re looking to improve our offensive plays and just be smart as a team and not just play individually.”