Women's rugby to switch divisions
Womens Rugby team
It’s not every day you see a team win a rugby match 105-5. Then again, it’s not every day you see a team like Grand Valley State University women’s rugby.
Big wins, including this season’s 100-point margin over Central Michigan University and a 73-0 drubbing of Michigan State University, have become routine for the Lakers, even though they have spent the last four years as a Division I club program.
The team will return to Division II next year and come into the season with many already considering them the early favorite to win the national championship.
GVSU head coach Bob Richthammer said the team will have to continue to schedule tough non-conference opponents to challenge his players during the season after they transfer Divisions. Even with his team’s wins this season, Richthammer said the program is better suited for Division II.
“We’re built for Division II. We’re not built for Division I,” Richthammer said. “We don’t have the size, and our program – this is its eighth year in existence in comparison to a lot of Division I [teams] that have been around for 15 or 20 years, and that may not mean a lot to most people, but it takes a while to build up a successful program.”
After a 7-2 regular season that ended in a 9-8 loss to Northern Iowa in November’s playoffs, the team returned to the field this month and won the Detroit Ruck City Rugby Tournament. The Lakers shut out Ashland University and Saginaw Valley State University en route to a 29-10 win over Michigan State in the championship game.
Senior wing Chantell Boyd said the general consensus of the team is that going back to Division II will be a good thing, even if it means less challenging regular season competition.
“We’ve never been more disappointed to lose by one point in the final game for us to go to nationals,” Boyd said. “The girls really want to go to nationals, and I think that in DII we could not only go to nationals, but win a national championship.”
Although this year’s team fell short of a national championship, it was an offensive powerhouse, which outscored its opponents 350-41 during the regular season.
Boyd attributed the team’s success to its cohesiveness and its overall fitness level. She said the team ran opponents out of gas as the game went on, and the style of play was one of the reasons behind its wins.
“Speed, finesse, determination – that’s the Grand Valley way,” Boyd said. “Never say die, keep going.”
Senior prop Rebecca Teske said this year’s team had great chemistry, and its bond helped the players on the field. Teske expects the team to be just as successful next season.
“I think they’re going to be great next year,” Teske said. “A lot of them are willing to step up and put in effort to get better, so they’ll be just as good if not better.”
Richthammer said this year’s team was by far the best Grand Valley has ever had. Nine players from GVSU took part in last weekend’s conference all-star game with Richthammer coaching the team. He said he expects some of his players to receive invitations for the U.S. National Team.
“We’re getting athletes who are turning down scholarships in other sports,” Richthammer said. “We have 14 girls who have played a different sport under scholarship on our team. That made the season special because we were just so big and so fast and so good. It was fun to watch.”