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Students revive women's rugby team at Rice

By Nicki Chamberlain-Simon     12/3/13 6:00pm

Two students revived the Rice University women's rugby team this year after its dissolution in 2011. Duncan College senior Courtney Applewhite and Sid Richardson College junior Stella Keck teamed up to get the club sport going again last spring, and the team has since grown to have 14 members and two head coaches.

After having been an official club sport for 14 years, the team disbanded in 2011 due to an inability to field enough players. Two years later, though, Applewhite said she was inspired to create a new rugby team.

"I wanted to put the team back together mainly because I wanted to play," Applewhite said. "I had just retired from a professional BMX racing career and wanted something new and challenging to participate in, and starting up the rugby team seemed like the perfect thing to keep me occupied."



Keck, who transferred to Rice last year, had played rugby since her junior year of high school and continued in her freshman year at Occidental College. Since Applewhite did not have any experience with the sport of rugby and Keck was relatively new to the university, Keck said the two teamed up to recruit a new squad and prepared the paperwork to become an official club sport. Keck said the team is still in its growing phase but is continuing to improve.

"I am the only player on the team who has really played rugby before besides Courtney, who played over the summer, so the team is really young and is definitely in the learning stage," Keck said. "But they're learning very quickly; our future looks good."

To prepare for their games, the players practice twice a week and attend 12 Saturday games per year. However, unlike past teams that competed with 15 players, the women's rugby team is competing in matches with seven players. The team is currently a member of the Lone Star Conference, which consists of other universities such as the University of Texas, San Antonio, the University of Texas, Austin and Lamar University. After losing its first two games and winning its last two, the women's rugby team finished its fall season Nov. 23 with a 2-2 record; the team will be continuing its year-long season in January.

Keck said she believes the team's record does not reflect its potential. 

"I think the 2-2 record doesn't really show all the work we've done," Keck said. "The learning curve for rugby is very fast, and the first couple games we lost, we were still learning all of the basics. I think if we were to play the teams we lost to now, it would be a very different score."

While this redeveloping club sport is continuing to develop and recruit, the response from current members has been positive. Sid Rich freshman Skye Wang, the team's public relations representative, said having Keck as her Orientation Week advisor and talking to Applewhite convinced her to join the rugby team.

"At the [activities] fair, I met Courtney, and she talked a little about rugby and how there's a position for everyone," Wang said. "This sounded cool to me because I felt like in other sports you had to learn the positions and then pick one you think you're able to do well. In rugby, it's the other way around. However you like to play, there's probably a position just for you to do."

While the women's rugby team is still in the rebuilding process, it has been attracting women across campus who want to try a new sport and experience the camaraderie of a team. Applewhite said she hopes the team will grow enough to play with 15 players in the future.

"The No. 1 thing that it will take for the team to stay alive is recruiting," Applewhite said. "Rugby is a tough sell for some people, and few are willing to come out and try it without encouragement. We were very lucky to have a lot of freshmen join the squad this year, and I hope the girls will continue that trend and [the team will grow] next year."



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