Northstar rugby’s historic season continues into national championships


TWO WINS AWAY—The NMU Northstar women’s rugby celebrates with their regional championship trophy after a lopsided victory against Minnesota State-Moorhead. The team now heads to Tennessee to face Wayne State College in the national semifinals, and are two wins away from winning it all. Photo courtesy of Rachel Placeway.

Dallas Wiertella, Staff Writer

The Northern Michigan University Northstar women’s rugby team heads off to Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend for the Small College National Collegiate Rugby Championships this weekend after coming home as regional champions.

The NMU women’s rugby team has steamrolled their competition so far and formed a family bond like no other. Now they face their greatest challenge in the semifinals against Wayne State University on Saturday. Wayne State is known as the top college to beat in the rugby scene, holding many national championship titles under their belt. The Wildcats look to take over the top spot this weekend. 

“I think we have a good chance to beat Wayne State, I really do,” Northstar coach Tina Nesberg said. “The girls want this bad, they are focused and they are disciplined.”

Wayne State and Northern Michigan faced off back in 2018 when some of the seniors of the team were freshmen. Now reinforced by time and practice they are ready to take down the giants from downstate. 

“We’re out for revenge,” captain Rachel Placeway said. “We are putting out our best foot and giving them a game that they actually have to play.”

The Wildcats are not without their own impressive track record, coming out as conference champions after a 43-0 win against University of Chicago and taking home victory 74-19 against Moorhead University at the Midwest regionals. Filled with confidence and holding strong to their family bond the Cats are ready for their shot at a new title to add on, national champions. 

“You have to stay humble because there is already room for improvement,” Nesberg said. “You can never pat your own back too much because then you never stop growing. We did well on defense and we shut them down and focused on doing that.” 

Rugby already takes nerves of steel to just participate in, but the team finds themselves a little nervous despite all the confidence that has fueled them this far into the season. Making it all the way, the athletes attempt to shake off their pressure knowing that they deserve to be in the position that they are in.

“We’re feeling really confident that if we can play our game, we can make it a good competition for this weekend,” Placeway said. “We are a little nervous but we made it this far and there is nothing to lose from here on out.” 

The team has already accomplished so much, and although they try to stay humble they have much to be proud of. The Cats take pride in their rough sport and acknowledge their achievements but are still hungry for more looking to end this season on the highest note that they can make it on. 

“It’s amazing what a group of connected, like-minded women who have a passion for the game and a passion for each other, can accomplish,” Nesberg said. “It just goes to show how far they have come.”

NMU faces Wayne State University at 11 a.m. on Saturday, and a win would secure them in the championship at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. All national games will be livestreamed on the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) Facebook page and Northstar rugby invites everyone to cheer them on from home while they battle in Tennessee.