Filled bleachers, clear skies and a smokin BBQ created a community environment to support Southern Oregon’s men’s and women’s rugby teams as they took the pitch in a hard hitting double header Saturday afternoon. For a club sport that has limited funding, the teams hosted great matches that drew loud cheers from all the spectators present, ranging from faculty under umbrellas to students stretched out on blankets.
Recent success and notoriety among the program has come from the teams efforts to draw more attention to their sport. Throughout the past week both teams could be found outside of the Hawk and in front of Stevenson Union selling t shirts and telling passersby about the upcoming match.
The women’s team also recently acquired a coach after being self-governed over the last few seasons. Kate Alftine answered a Craigslist post last fall and has been quick to teach the women skills as well as an understanding for the game since most are new to the sport. Alftine, a former player herself, cares passionately for rugby but attributes the recent momentum to the select group of students who went searching to recruit her.
“We’ve had very determined leaders who organized all the games and events,” she said post game, “All the players are becoming more skilled but in order to really get better we need more numbers to travel.”
Alftine sees trips to Chico State and Portland as necessary in order to raise the Raiders level of play.
During the first match the SOU men waited patiently in a tight pack on the bleachers, their eagerness to play could be sensed through loud vocal support for their female peers as well as occasional clicks from cleats on the metal seats. But once the red and black stripes lined up for opening kick-off, the intensity was immediately apparent.
“Who’s going to get the first hit?!” a sub called from the sideline and was answered by a unison of yells that were vocally distorted as they passed through mouth guards and carried across the field.
While the women’s match was not lacking in intensity with multiple injuries and fast breaks, a certain friendliness was exhibited by the players who were still working to learn fundamentals. The competition following, however, was to be one of the hardest hitting athletic matches seen in Ashland since the national championship football team competed only a stones throw away last winter.
The men’s team, like the women, also hopes to gain more numbers on their roster in the coming term. Senior Ronson Hill said that the unique experience and camaraderie of being on the team is what originally attracted him to join.
“The rugby community at large is a bunch of fun and awesome people,” Hill said, “We have players who left SOU 20 years ago who come back for the alumni game every year.” As a former high school basketball player who had hardly seen rugby played before, Ronson is an example of a converted athlete who has fallen in love with the sport.
He believes that athletes with a will to learn can be successful as rugby players and encourages all who are interested to attend practices on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 o’clock on the intramural field.
Those hoping to watch will have to wait until spring quarter for another home match but should keep an eye out around campus for flyers and promotions.