By Nicholas Cousins
The SUNY Plattsburgh women’s rugby team competed in the Upstate NY Division I Collegiate Rugby Championship Qualifier this weekend. Leaving the developmental league, this was a new challenge for the team as they competed against Division I teams as a Division III-sized school. The women, however, did not shy away from the competition and left the tournament with their heads held high and experience in their back pockets.
In their first matchup, Plattsburgh went up against St. Bonaventure, losing 5-43. Plattsburgh’s Lauren Gonyo scored the teams try of the match. Plattsburgh then faced Ithaca, losing 5-34. Sophomore Elumedon Iweriebor scored the Cardinals’ try in the match. To end the day, Plattsburgh faced the University of Rochester, where it lost a nail biter 10-15. Sophomore Natasha Sheffer scored both of the Cards’ tries in the match.
Despite some disheartening losses, the team understands that it will take time to adjust to the new division and there are many areas in which to grow as the season progresses. With the Upstate NY Small College CRC Qualifier approaching this weekend and the TnT Alumni Tournament at the end of April, players on the team are looking to improve and work on personal goals they have for themselves through the emotions of competition.
Sheffer, a rookie, said she was “extra scared, but it was great to see how the game came together on that level for other teams.” Sheffer paid attention to the chemistry the Division I teams they faced had, and it opened her eyes to the intense competition that takes place.
Shaffer also said the team felt like the “underdogs,” and with some players returning this weekend from injury, she is excited for what the team is going to bring going into the qualifier and the team will be ready for TnT.
Shaffer admitted that while she was intimidated before the season started, the older players on the team made her feel welcome. She said “it’s nice to know when you are playing that someone will have your back.”
Shaffer’s goals for the season are to be working on her defense and reading opposing players better in order to make an impact. Shaffer also wants to keep improving in confidence and said her two goals against Rochester gave her a great boost. She said that as a whole, the team needs to work on their spacing on both sides of the field.
Iweriebor said it was interesting to see how the Division I teams played, saying “this was a good experience for what is coming up,” and believes “the team has a good chance of doing well” in the upcoming qualifier.
This is Iweriebor’s second year on the team, and she still wants to improve her tackling and, just like her teammate Shaffer, continue to maintain confidence. About herself, Iweriebor said she is a good player and is valuable to the team, believing that she belongs here and there is always more to learn.
“This tournament was a great learning opportunity for our team. Many new players got to experience the game that is rugby. We were able to notice our strengths and our weaknesses,” Plattsburgh’s Alexandria Lia said.
Lia also said the goals she has for herself as a player are to improve defensively and overall for the team to improve their communication on the pitch.
The women know what their goals are and are committed to improving their habits and gaining more experience as the intense competition continues to come their way.