KSC women ruggers yearn for fan support

Michelle Berthiaume

Equinox Staff


The Keene State women’s rugby team painted a picture of the bright future it is planning. The teammates hopes are just as high as their expectations this season and they intend to fulfill both. The season just began for the women’s rugby team.

“We have only had one small tournament and we won three out of four games. We made it to the finals for the first time since we started doing this tournament,” Coach Karen Johannasen said.

The expectations are high. “We’ve moved up to Division III from Division IV and we are looking forward to a much more solid season. In Division IV, we were playing teams that would have to cancel games because of their lack of players or we would have to reschedule games three and four times just to play. This year should be a lot more competitive,” Johannasen said.

“We want to win. We moved up a division so we want to be able to compete as well as we did last year,” sophomore Sarah Curran said.

Expectations don’t end at wins. Johannasen hopes for better numbers too. “I would like our numbers to increase. We are a little low this year. The men’s team has close to forty players and that’s great but I would love to have 25 to 30 girls. That would make it easier to field a team where all players are comfortable with what they’re doing,” Johannasen said.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association currently doesn’t recognize rugby as an affiliated sport. Across the country, school athletic departments or school club programs govern college rugby teams. This is no different at Keene State College.

“We’ve never been NCAA affiliated so it hasn’t affected our team. Especially because no one is affiliated because rugby is a club sport across the United States,” team captain Leann Lam said. Director of Recreational Sports at Keene State Lynne Andrews said, “If the NCAA doesn’t see rugby as a sport that they want to sponsor, it doesn’t matter. They’re not looking to add rugby as a recognized sport at this time.”

“We’ve been a club for 25 years now and it’s always worked out. I am glad that we are a club. It means that anyone can come play. We don’t have any stipulations like the varsity teams do,” Johannesen said. “We don’t have to have tryouts. We can have people join the team whenever and we can find room for anybody. That’s something I really like about club rugby.”

The team isn’t worried about the lack of NCAA support. Players see some downsides to the fact that the NCAA doesn’t recognize rugby as an affiliated sport though.

“We don’t get as much support from the school as the varsity teams. For example, we don’t get to see athletic trainers as often as they do,” Lam said. “Whenever we want to see an athletic trainer, we have to wait for a game on the weekend or we have to go find our own doctors, which is more expensive for us. But it’s doable.” The KSC women’s rugby team also wants to improve its fan support for KSC students.

“I am sure the rugby team could see bigger crowds, but so could our varsity teams. The students should be out supporting the club teams here and show those athletes that they stand behind them,” Andrews said. “They could advertise more for home games, send out a MyKSC reminder, or hang a banner in the Student Center. Lack of support could be related to the fact that students don’t know when home games are.”

Johannesen said the fans have been coming out in bigger numbers in recent years.

“Over the years, the school has become much more supportive of the rugby club. I played here in the early 1990s and we had to do a lot on our own. The recreational sports department are really supporting us and standing behind what we do,” Johannesen said. “But I think fans don’t support us because they don’t know what rugby is. They think it’s just a bunch of people running around trying to hurt each other. But really, there’s a lot of finesse, ball handling and strategy that goes into rugby. If they knew that, I think they’d be more interested.”

Curran said it is depressing for the team that KSC students don’t come out to show their support.

“It makes us upset that students don’t come out to support us. We work hard at practice to play well in the games and it’s hard to play well in the games when no one comes to cheer us on,” Curran said. The bar is set high for the Keene State women’s rugby team this season, but they are willing to take the challenge.


Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at mberthiaume@ksc.mailcruiser.com

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