Courtesy Photo / Bob Richthammer
Grand Valley Womens Rugby team competing at the Division II College Playoffs.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Bob Richthammer Grand Valley Women’s Rugby team competing at the Division II College Playoffs.

It is a big deal for any sport to make it to the national level.

This weekend, for the first time in its history, the Grand Valley State University women’s rugby club will join the ranks of the numerous other GVSU teams that have made it to their respective national tournaments when the club attends the Division II women’s rugby National Collegiate Playoffs at Ohio State University.

“Our emotions fluctuate from nervous and excited,” said sophomore center Krissy Smith. “We’ve never been this far, and it is a huge honor for us. We have worked so hard since our fall season ended; now that it’s only a few days away, it’s slightly surreal, but it is more exciting than it is nerve-wracking.”

After returning from their split season, which ended in October with a first-place regional championship ranking, the Lakers are gearing back up and rediscovering the elements that make their team work.

As GVSU coach Bob Richthammer said, one of the most important aspects of the Lakers is their unity.
“During the first half of our split season, we got better each week and developed as a team,” he said. “We gelled as a team, and that’s ultimately more important than having great athletes. You can have all the best athletes in the world, but if they don’t play as a team, it will be difficult to win.”

On Friday, the undefeated Lakers (11-0) will face off against the University of Pittsburgh, and the team is preparing for a difficult game.
“Pittsburgh is a big, physically fit team,” said scrum half Emma Pesci. “We tend to be on the smaller side, so it will be a challenge, but we have good speed and really good ball movement, so I feel like it will be a challenge that we will be able to overcome.”

As Pesci said, their team has felt the support of its fans, and wants to win for GVSU.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support emails and positive feedback,” she said. “Alumni players are as excited as we are for us to accomplish the dream.”
With both games and finals approaching, the Lakers are finding themselves somewhat rushed, and Richthammer said the fact that the team still finds time for their sport is inspiring.
“They are all moving their classes and labs around so that they can accommodate their rugby schedule,” he said. “When they get back on Monday, they’ll have finals. That’s what makes college athletes special.”
The Lakers feel prepared for the tournament, and in recent weeks, they have made
efforts to analyze their mistakes in order to get ready for the important games to come.
“We’ve been working pretty hard,” Smith said. “We’ve been watching game films and looking at the differences between our play then and how we are now. In the end, it comes down to just playing our game. When we do that, I don’t think there are many teams in the country that can beat us.”

[email protected]