Women’s team dominates 15’s rugby in first Division I season

After being crowned National Champions this past spring and becoming Norwich University’s only Division I athletic program, the Norwich University Women’s Rugby team proved to be unstoppable yet again. This fifteen’s team had a great season, ending with a conference record of 9-0 and a total record of 13-0.

The ladies knew they had a legacy to uphold coming into this season. They worked non-stop to maintain the level of competitiveness and integrity that brought them such great success last year, team members said.

“Coming into the season as D2 champions affected the team dynamic extremely positively,” said Rose Bernheim, a junior fullback, majoring in studies of war in peace from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.  “But we are DI now and we have so much more to prove.”

 Bernheim said that a privilege of moving up to a much greater level of competition is the fact that they get to recruit new players and select athletes who they know will be a huge asset to the team.  The ladies say that this has helped greatly in overcoming the loss of talent from the championship team of last year.

“The freshman came in better than in previous years.  We had a lot of civilian recruits so we were able to bond with them more to create a really good team chemistry,” said Chelsea Weeden, a senior prop, majoring in sports medicine from Colchester, Vt.

“We are Number One in the conference, we actually won it this year,” said Joya Clark, a junior wing, majoring in criminal justice from Scotia, N.Y. “We are ranked number two in the nation at this time.”

Throughout the season, however, there were a few games that really put the team and the morale over the top, and helped them come out with a win.

“From day one we stepped out on that field and took down a solid D1 team (West Point) that won nationals only a few years ago,” said Emily Baugus, a senior fly-half, majoring in construction and engineering management from Kingsville, Texas.  “It was then we knew we were nothing shy, if not better than we were last year.”

Even though the Cadets’ season is over, they won’t know who they play in the national championship until the spring.

“The West Coast is very different from us in that aspect,” Clark said. “We have all of our conference games in the fall, and they have theirs in the spring.”

This year Bernheim, who is a junior captain, appeared in the October issue of Sports Illustrated magazine in the “Faces in the Crowd” section, highlighting her career at Norwich.

“I think it was a big step for us it definitely put our sport and team out there.  Rose is a great athlete and we are so proud of her,” Weeden said.

“I don’t think it’s as big of deal for the team as it is for the sport as a whole,” Bernheim said. “It’s a small sport, but this is a great way for it to be recognized.”

Over the past few years, the young program has developed tremendously well and gained much respect from other programs, as well as bringing more appreciation and awareness of women’s rugby as a whole.

Departing seniors are confident that the underclassmen that are leaving behind will serve well and keep the legacy of winning Norwich women’s rugby alive.

Said Andrea Vogt, a senior wing majoring in sports medicine from Dedham, Mass., “Hopefully now that we are in Division I, we can keep moving up and up and leaving more landmarks in Norwich University history.”

Women's rugby team

Photo: © David “B” Bernheim

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