By Cyrus Gutnick
“There is no skipping in rugby.”
This sentiment, expressed by the fans who braved the cold and the possibility of rain to support the team that has absolutely reigned over the past few years, could not better describe the UC Santa Cruz women’s rugby team as it rampaged through its season premier match at the East Field House last Saturday.
“We have dominated our league,” said senior Michelle Sit, the team’s forward captain. “We are definitely the top team to overthrow. We are the targets for Northern California.”
The women’s rugby team, undefeated in league play for the past five years, came out of the starting gates at full throttle against Santa Clara University, a team UCSC hadn’t played in the last couple of years.
“Santa Clara came a little harder than we expected,” Sit said. “Although we were prepared, we got our act together pretty quickly.”
The Slugs’ act came together quickly as they took a 10-0 lead within the first 20 minutes of play.
Kelly McMahon scored the first try, which came off a breakaway run that set the pace for the rest of the match and created more room for big team plays.
“As the game moved on we worked [more] as a team,” said senior Natalie Jacuzzi, team captain. “The forwards were moving toward the try zone, [shifting] from independent to team play.”
As the Slugs started to work more in sync, it wasn’t long before they started putting more points on the board. Sure enough, around the 27th minute, with help from the offense, Sit broke out of a “maul” and from inside the 22-yard line, charged her way across the goal line, carrying another girl with her into the end zone.
“That was something forwards were practicing all week,” Sit said. “A maul is basically a giant clusterfuck of people. In that scenario you try and get the ball out. What you do is roll away with another person, [like] a two-person tornado [coming] out of the maul. You just rip it out and try to run with it.”
Just before the whistle blew, marking the end of the first half, the Slugs went out with another try made by Mashawna Miller.
The first half ended with UCSC leading 20-0, which turned out to be the final score of the game as neither team was able to put points on the board in the second half.
Between their strong record and solid play so far this season, the Slugs seem ready to take on anything that comes their way.
“Our competitors change every year,” Jacuzzi said. “Teams vary, but we stay more consistent with our speed, agility, and performance.”
A team compiled of athletes such as these does not come without hard work and sacrifice.
“It does take a lot of time and it’s a huge commitment,” Coach Alex McKenzie said. “If we make the playoffs, we practice five days a week. It’s tough to do. Some people miss practice to study and some miss studying to practice.”
As the women’s rugby team paves its way through the beginning of the season, defeat at last year’s national championship match left a sour taste in the mouths of many of the players, and a return to the championships is something the Slugs are looking to achieve.
“We don’t want to be cocky,” Coach Brett Amos said. “But it is on everyone’s mind, even if it is unspoken.”