Five years ago, the Montclair State University women’s rugby team stepped out into the Student Center Quad for their first ever practice. With no official field access, these women had to make do with what they had. Despite this, the team still became the first Montclair State women’s club sport to play at the Division II level in their first few years as a team.
Although the Lady Revelers are now back to playing at the Division III level along with the other Montclair State club sports, they have grown tremendously since the club started. Just this past year, they became Tri-State Central Division champions and recruited 18 new players, one being an exchange student from England.
The team currently consists of about 28 girls with only three having prior rugby experience. They practice four times a week, which is more than any club sport on campus. With the help of experienced coaches and a lot of teamwork, the team has worked through all of the hardships that have come their way. The Lady Revelers have come a long way from the mere 10 players the team consisted of in the fall 2018 season.
Sophomore Andrea Esquibel Berniz describes the rugby team as being part of a sisterhood.
“On and off the field, we support each other in numerous ways,” Esquibel Berniz said. “This sport has lifted all of our confidence up and has strengthened our minds and body. With this type of energy and attitude, we know we can conquer anything together.”
With majority of the team having never played rugby before, one of the main issues was teaching these girls a sport completely foreign to them. Esquibel Berniz as well as sophomore Montclarion contributing writer Zoe Gleason are among the many players that have never played a rugby match prior to college.
“I was always interested in rugby because I was always an aggressive energized person. I know this sport can be my outlet anytime I needed to let stress or anger out,” Esquibel Berniz said. “I have never played rugby a day in my life until freshman year of college. However, most of us came from playing soccer, softball or track.”
The establishment of the women’s rugby team has created new opportunities for so many students looking to try something new.
“I signed up my second week of freshman year and fell in love,” Gleason said. “I didn’t expect what I found and the rugby community is incredibly diverse. We have people of all orientations, identities and backgrounds.”
Gleason and the rest of her teammates have been through struggles, as a lack of players forced them to forfeit more than half of their games during the fall 2017 season. They were always the smallest team when going to compete in a tournament, but it did not stop their determined attitudes.
“Our team is stronger, bigger, and better organized than it ever has been,” Gleason said. “One of our collective goals is to grow as a team in skill and numbers and to play at the Division II level once more.”
It is hard to believe that even with the success the Lady Revelers have accomplished this year, they started the fall 2018 season with only 10 active members. They went undefeated in their past season, which was a complete turnaround from the previous one. The women’s rugby team has proven to the Montclair State community that hard work does pay off.
“One thing that I can say about rugby players as a collective is that we are resilient,” Gleason said. “If we are knocked down, we get right back up.”
Gleason continued to talk about the rugby team and their dedication.
“The Lady Revelers have a history that proves with hard work, passion and determination you can do anything,” Gleason said.