The finale for the NMU women’s rugby team last Sunday, October 17 was a bittersweet one.
Team captain Meredith Evancho said before the game, “This match is going to be a tough one because we’re playing ourselves. The other team sent in a forfeit last week, so we have to scrimmage today. And it’s always tough playing your own teammates.”
No one really knows why Bowling Green State University, the scheduled opponent, sent in a forfeit for the Northstars’ last official game. However, senior outside center Stephanie Ray said the Northstars felt that the Falcons simply did not want to make the drive to Marquette.
“It’s kind of unfair, seeing as how our closest away game was five-and-a-half, six hours away and we still went to all of them,” Ray said. “They just didn’t want it bad enough, I guess.”
Still, the show went on for the Northstars. Evancho split the team into two smaller teams, which were designated “blue” and “purple,” and the girls played a regular, albeit smaller, game. They used an 8-man layout on the field, which is approximately half the size of the standard 15-man setup. It also shortened the length of the game, since the players would get worn out more easily without substitutions. However, the rest of the competition was just like any other game for the Northstars.
“We scrimmage in practice all the time, so we’re used to it,” said flanker Erin Angeli. “It really helps the new girls with the game setting. We work on techniques, tackles, memory reflexes. And it makes learning the game so much easier. Plus, anyone’s first rugby game is terrifying, so it helps to ease that fear if you can scrimmage your teammates first.”
The match commenced with two goals from the blue team. Purple came up with a goal, but then were brought down again with another double-whammy from blue. They rose once more with a second goal, but didn’t have time to catch back up by the end of the game when blue scored their fifth and sixth goals, ending the game with a score of 37-15. Unfortunately, the game will not be counted toward the team’s season record.
“Next weekend, a few of the girls are going up to Tech to play,” Ray said, “but this was our last game as a team. It was a bummer to kind of have it taken away from us like that. We were all sorts of upset, because we wanted our last game to be at home.”
Hooker Stephanie Grajek agreed with Ray. “This was an okay ending to our season. We had a lot of fun, but it’s still kind of disappointing. It would’ve been way better had Bowling Green showed up.”
Looking back, though, the girls’ opinions on the season are nothing short of positive. Angeli said the highlight of the Northstars’ season was their game against Central Michigan, played Sunday, Oct. 10.
“We played really well, despite having fewer players than usual and that they were such a tough team. They had some huge, monster girls, but we handled them well. I was so proud of us that game,” Angeli said.
She also shared a favorite memory of the season. “We called it my ‘scrummy move.’ I made a flying pass, booked it all the way down the field and scored. I was so proud of myself,” Angeli said. “Normally I’m just kind of crash-and-go, I don’t really think on my feet, so to work that out so quickly made for a pretty awesome day.”
Looking only at the Northstars’ record this year, one might think the team had a less-than-satisfactory season. But as Angeli, Ray, Grajek, and a dozen other players have demonstrated, their reflections are anything but negative.
“Overall, we had a great season,” Grajek said. “Even though we didn’t have any wins, we had so much fun together. And we improved a lot as a team, the new girls especially. They picked it up pretty quickly. It was fun to watch everyone improve so much.”