Women’s club rugby relishes return to competition

By Josh Rosenstein

Women’s rugby poses after beating Southern Connecticut State University, 22–0, in its home opener on Saturday, Sept. 25. Courtesy of Chris Johnson

In light of the abundance of talent on the team, it may come as a surprise that no one on the women’s rugby club (MCWRC) team played rugby before joining the squad.

A significant portion of credit is owed to the team’s legendary coach, K.O. Onufry. One of the founding members of Boston’s Beantown Rugby Club, Onufry has worked at Middlebury for 21 years.

“She’s really a central part of the team,” MCWRC president Lily Shannon ’23 said. “You can tell how much she cares about each and every one of us.”

MCWRC (1–1) is now two games into its fall season. On Saturday, Sept. 25, the Panthers defeated Southern Connecticut State University, 22–0. Last Saturday, they traveled to Bowdoin College, falling 27–17.

Many MCWRC members—including students from the class of 2024 and 2024.5—are playing in games for the first time ever in their Middlebury career. Last season, due to the pandemic, the team didn’t compete against other schools, and couldn’t have full-contact practices. Instead, they focused on tactical and skill work.

The Panthers play in Rugby Northeast and under USA Rugby, so most of their matches are against other NESCAC schools or smaller New England universities. The team has expectations of qualifying for playoffs this year, which have tentative dates of Nov. 6 and 13.

Women’s rugby battles Southern Connecticut University on Saturday, Sept. 25. Courtesy of Chris Johnson

One pillar of MCWRC is its inclusivity and camaraderie—the team is very accepting of all players, no matter their prior experience.

“The team culture is so good,” Elizabeth Austin ’24 said. “It’s a very open community, very non-judgemental, and [supportive] no matter your skill level.”

The Panthers are back in action on Oct. 9, when they host St. Michael’s College. You can stay up to date with MCWRC by following them on Instagram.