By Nicole Ramsey

The East Field was jam-packed on Saturday as the women’s rugby team hosted its annual Slugfest. Within the first couple minutes of the games, there were numerous players on the field piled up on top of each other and tackles that look like they’d break every bone in the body. The physical contact was unbelievable, and it set the tone for the rest of the match-ups that day.

For a sport that’s big in Europe, the pitch was swarming with players from all over California. In attendance were Chico State, UC Davis, UN Reno, UCLA, Sacramento State, Humboldt and San Luis Obispo.

“No one really knows about rugby,” senior and captain Mara Reddick said. “It is nonexistent in California before the collegiate level.”

The tournament is used as a way to introduce the freshmen and rookies to rugby and give them the experience of playing in a real game. The goal is to get the new players exposed to as much rugby play as possible in order to feel comfortable during the season, when the pressure is on.

“It’s a really good rookie tournament,” junior Danielle Crain said. “In rugby you don’t really know how to play the game until you play in a game.”

According to Reddick, rugby is a “light bulb” sport, meaning that new players don’t usually get the techniques down until they find an opportunity in the game where they begin to use it.

In between games, the Slugs found time to teach the nervous rookies the ins and outs of the game.

“I was pretty nervous,” freshman Allison Jehly said. “I didn’t know how it was going to be, playing against these other teams.”

The women’s rugby team made its way to the playoffs last year and won the national championship the year before. Needless to say, the team’s expectations are rather high for the upcoming season.

“I think when the season comes, we will be ready for it,” coach Brett Amos said. “I feel like we have been playing well so far and our new players are coming along great.”

The Slugs made the decision to invite better teams to Slugfest this year to see how they size up against tough competition. Although the team lost three starters from last year, they still have a lot of returning players who know the ropes.

“Our goal is to learn how to understand the art of rugby,” Reddick said. “It’s not perfection and it’s not [just] to win.”

While this is only the beginning of the process, Amos feels that once the team plays its first game, he will be able to go more in-depth about logistics of the game that perhaps weren’t clear before.

“We have a lot of players this year,” Amos said. “And it’s exciting to watch them grow.”

Due to rugby’s underground nature, each new season brings new players trying to grasp the sport, creating constantly changing competition from year to year. While the Slugs are staying more focused on learning the game and less on their record, the national title is still at the top of their many aspirations.

“We are trying to play the best rugby we can, that is our goal,” Reddick said. “But I want that [national championship] banner because I know we can and we have a really dedicated group of girls.”