Girls rugby team goes undefeated against Harvey

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Claire Goldberg, Staff Writer

The Girls Rugby team went undefeated in a three-game series against The Harvey School on Wednesday, in which five out of the eight team members scored. Due to the 90-degree weather, the team played three seven-minute games with five minute breaks in between each one as opposed to playing a traditional 80-minute game. All three of the games were “touch” games as opposed to tackle games due to COVID guidelines.

Between each game, the team reflected on what they had done well and what they wanted to work on for the next game, captain Catherine Mignone (11) said. “We created our feedback and then responded to it in the next game,” she said. “It was really effective because our score actually went up each game.”

Despite the weather, the team was able to keep up their energy, Mignone said. “In practice we talked about having an ‘energy tap’ and turning it on when you’re in a game and switching it off when you get to rest,” she said. “Everyone really accessed that at the game, so we didn’t drop our focus. Everyone was giving it 100% in the game.”

 Because six of the eight team members had never played rugby before this season, playing touch rugby made the game less intimidating, Irene Argenti (11) said. 

Clementine Bondor (10), however, was disappointed that the game did not involve tackling, she said. “Tackling is such an innate part of the game, so playing without it was definitely an obstacle,” she said. “It means we have to dodge people a lot more on the field.”

Playing touch rugby pushed the team to hone in on their strategy and technical skills, Mignone said. “In tackle rugby, if you’re really strong you can just create space by pushing someone aside, and you can’t do that in touch,” she said. “You have to be smarter about the way you play.”

During the game, the team had to adjust to new spacing, Bondor said. “The field was much wider than the field on which we had practiced, so it took time to get used to utilizing that width.” However, the team was using the space to their advantage by the end of the game, she said. 

To prepare for the series, the team spent the first part of the season learning the game, Jojo Mignone (9) said. “We’ve been doing a lot of basic strategy and just feeling our way around the game so that everyone [was] comfortable,” she said. “Being comfortable and confident in your abilities is the most important thing for rugby games, and it improves the team’s performance.”

Practices have been centered around team bonding because many players are unfamiliar with the game, Argenti said. “We also spent a lot of time making the team a safe space because almost all of us are new to the sport,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that people weren’t afraid of messing up.” 

Coach Ryszard Chadwick also designed practices that capitalized on the team’s existing knowledge, he said. For example, every player has played soccer, so one practice consisted of playing a soccer game to practice the importance of applying pressure, which is a key principle of rugby, he said. 

To ensure that all of the girls felt prepared for the game, the team devoted all of Tuesday’s practice to sharing lessons each member learned throughout the season and to complimenting each other, Argenti said. “It was really nice to realize that everyone was nervous for the game,” she said. “I’m really scared about making a fool of myself during the game, but the conversation made me realize that we’re all here to learn from mistakes.”

Because there are only eight girls in the program, the team had never had a full scrimmage prior to Wednesday’s game, Bondor said. “We’ve been scrimmaging with four on four, which makes this game more difficult because the whole team aspect of the game is still very foreign,” she said.

However, having a smaller team has helped each member have more one-on-one time with Chadwick, Jojo said. “I prefer our smaller team because having one-on-one time with the coach has helped me improve a lot more than I would have on a larger team,” she said.

The game was Stella Shah’s (11) first time participating in a team sport, she said. “It was really great to be working with a group of girls where I didn’t feel like I would be holding them back,” she said. “Because we’re all so close, we never got frustrated with each other when we made mistakes and we celebrated our successes. This is something I’m not just going to carry over to next year, but also into my social life in general.”

Chadwick’s favorite part of the game was when team member Jhanae Ottey (11) scored the first point of the game, he said. “The team’s celebration kind of epitomized the whole season,” he said. “They were so happy to get out there, be successful, and play the game that they’ve been working so hard to learn for the past few months.”

  Bondor watched the team learn during the game, she said. “The whole thing felt like a coming-of-age movie,” she said. “We all grew so much as people, and it was really amazing to watch and all the more incredible to experience.”