A year removed from shutting down their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah State University Women’s Rugby club team came just one game away from a Division 1 College Rugby Championship. The team advanced to the finals of the Western Region Championships over the weekend, falling to Davenport University, ending a stellar season.
The team finished its remarkable season with an 8-1 record, going 4-0 in conference games and winning the Rocky Mountain Rugby Conference Championship.
The team would go on to win its first match in the Western Region Championships, knocking off the University of Michigan 40-19 on Nov. 20. The team would fall to Davenport 70-26, ending their season.
"What an honor it is to be part of this team,” said Abby Hymas, who led USU and the conference in scoring. “Each player works so hard and is willing to learn. “We keep each other accountable yet still provide help and encouragement when another falls short. We also support each other outside of rugby. It is because of this camaraderie and respect for one another, both on and off the field, that we are able to come together on the pitch and play as one cohesive unit."
Hymas scored 159 points during the regular season, converting 22 of her 23 tries. The next closest player in the Rocky Mountain Conference scored 84 points. Other top scorers on the team include Brynn Dittman, Rachel Billings, Cora Bruneel, Hannah Davies, Zoe Adams, Dana Paskett, Kailey Peterson, and Maddi Strubhar. The team won convincingly in each of its matches, averaging 55.7 points per game while surrendering 15.7 points during the regular season and conference playoffs.
"It's been an honor playing with a group of girls who perfectly encapsulate the spirit of rugby: camaraderie,” said Sarah Young. “We've gone out on the pitch week after week and played some tough, highly physical games. But what's so admirable is that we've always managed to pick ourselves, our teammates, and our opponents up and represent that spirit of rugby in the U.S. for other young women to fall in love with."
Through the pandemic, the team practiced under COVID-19 protocols, doing skills, drills and conditioning without allowing contact. The team was not able to have an actual game of contact play until spring 2021 but through it all, the team strengthened its bond and has had a spectacular 2021 season.
"We’re a family,” said Valeti Fonua. “We keep each other humble and on our toes. Whatever we go through personally or collectively, we go through together. That’s why we’re so close. That’s why we continue to play. We play for each other!”