“They definitely impressed and surprised me every single game,” Illinois State women’s rugby club coach Zoe Babowice said.
ISU women’s rugby went undefeated in the regular season and finished its fall season in Cincinnati for the National tournament, where they fell to Davenport, a funded team which won the championship for two consecutive years.
“It was a strange season, because we started out with a lot of new players and we lost a lot of […] our vets,” sophomore Shannon Stevens said. “They were important pieces of our game, so we had to go in and rework everything and see where we were going to put the new rookies.”
When preparing for the season, the team had no idea just how successful the season would be. The team is comprised of over 50 percent rookies.
“Going in, I thought we had a good chance,” Stevens said. “NIU had just left our conference, and they’re our hardest competition. But overall, I never thought we’d go as far as we went.”
ISU’s previous coach left before the season, leaving ISU in need of a coach. Luckily, previous ISU player Babowice stepped up to fill the role. Her new coaching methods were much different than her predecessor’s.
“Coming in, we kind of changed everything,” Babowice said. “Our whole strategy, our game play. It was kind of nice to have a lot of new girls, since most people don’t know what rugby is coming in. We could just start from scratch.”
Babowice will be leaving after this season, so the team hopes to carry the same momentum, even if the team is left without a coach and a team of mostly rookies.
“I feel like it’s just going to be another adjustment,” junior Grace Lee said. “This is still my first season, so I’m just trying to get used to the game and the girls and reading […] body language and reading the other team.”
The team is now in the spring season, which includes non-competitive tournaments.
“I think every spring, because (the season) is non-competitive, it’s always, especially at the club-level, about recruitment and more so retention,” Babowice said.
The team will host the seventh annual Pack the Pitch Pink April 29. This is a tournament that raises money for the Normal Cancer Society. The event raised $1,000 in 2016.