Girls Rugby tackles first two games in school history

Emily Shi, Staff Writer

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The Girls Rugby Team has officially joined the cohort of sports teams at the school after a year of planning by Catherine Mignone (9). The Lions had their first two matches of the season against the Harvey School last Thursday, losing the first match 5-10 and winning the second 15-5, Leah Sepiashvili (9) said.

The team was pleasantly surprised with their win after only practicing for three weeks, Kate Feiner (9) said. During the first game, the team had to adjust to some unfamiliar new rules, but they were still able to succeed, Feiner said.

The team is composed of freshmen and three juniors, which allows for an environment to break down the expected barriers between upper and underclassmen, said Sepiashvili.

“As juniors, we try to take initiative to lead by example while remaining a close-knit team that always focuses on positive reinforcement,” Irati Egorho Diez (11) said.

“In such a tough sport like rugby, the team’s supportive attitude is incredibly important,” Girls Rugby Coach Joseph Hunt said.

“That positivity really carried over into the game and even when things didn’t go as planned, everyone kept calm and helped each other,” he said.

Thinking about the future of their season, members of the team discussed group and individual goals to improve their skills for their next game on May 2nd, Mignone said.

“Almost no one had prior experience with rugby, but we thrived in using the basic rules and strategies Coach Hunt has taught us,” Sofia Del Gatto (11) said.

“Communication is especially important for the team as only seven players span a full-sized football or soccer field,” Feiner said. “If everyone isn’t aware of everything that is going on, you won’t be able to score,” Mignone said.

The team initially practiced at Van Cortlandt Park by experimenting with complicated game exercises to get acquainted to rugby, Mignone said. Now, practice is more tailored to the team and players are able to focus more on technical aspects through practicing skillwork and fitness, Egorho Diez said.

In the upcoming weeks, Hunt will be working with members of the team to fulfill their personal goals, Mignone said.

As the fly-half, the quarterback equivalent in rugby, Mignone seeks develop more unique plays for the team, she said.

Feiner is the kicker for the team, a position that requires many passes and strategic decisions, she said. “I personally want to work on my kicks, playing with grit, and ensuring that we all stay organized,” she said.

Before the creation of the team, Mignone, who has experience with rugby, would travel to New Jersey to play with a club team, she said. “I thought it wasn’t right that there were no opportunities to play rugby in New York, so I started the team along with my sister and encouraged a lot of girls to join this year,” she said.

After developing the idea of creating a girls rugby team, Catherine and Josephine Mignone (7) drew up a petition, proposed the idea to the athletic department, and worked closely with Director of Athletics Robert Annunziata, Catherine Mignone said.

Catherine Mignone spent time researching other rugby teams in New York to create a list of schools that the Lions could compete against, she said.

“Finding people interested in playing the sport proved to be the most difficult part of creating the team for me, as some girls had a fear surrounding the stigma of a contact sport like rugby,” Catherine Mignone said. 

Del Gatto joined after learning more about rugby because the sport seemed unique, she said.

“I like that rugby is the only sport where the tackling rules are exactly the same for men and women,” Feiner said.

Hunt is hopeful that the current team will keep improving their rugby environment and help spark interest in new students looking to join next year, he said.