Written by Kimberlie Willard
In the early fall of 2017, Olivia Karkenny, senior, successfully formed Roanoke College’s first women’s rugby team. The team is currently comprised of seventeen individuals, ranging in year from freshman to senior. Practices are usually held Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at 6pm on the rugby field.
According to Karkenny, in order to begin the process of being recognized as a club sport, many steps had to be taken beforehand. First, interest in the sport had to be proven. In order to do this, Karkenny, along with the help of friends, began gathering names of interested individuals. She had to also ensure that the rugby team would have opponents from other nearby schools. After that, she worked with Gary Adams, club sports director, in order to finish the process of becoming a club sport.
When asked “why women’s rugby?”, Karkenny responded by relating her experiences from studying abroad in Australia during her sophomore spring semester. Rugby is a favorite pastime in Australia and so when given the opportunity, Karkenny decided to play rugby starting. “I sat on the idea for a year, before deciding to form the team,” said Olivia.
This is not the first time that someone has tried to bring women’s ruby to this campus. However, unlike Karkenny, that person was not successful at finalizing its formation.
Members of the team have made various comments about the dynamic and environment the team has formed. Sarah Waldinger, junior, said “I only went to a few rugby practices so far, but I have to say it has been a great experience. I tried to join two years ago when a team was attempted, but the effort by the women then was not the same- this time we felt like a team from the beginning.”
“I’m really liking the team a lot! It’s a pretty difficult sport, and there’s a lot of contact, but you have fun while you’re playing, ”said Ava McCartin, freshman.
Karkenny discussed the support and motivation that the men’s rugby team has brought to the field. “We’ve worked with men’s rugby a lot.” Karkenny said.
“We’ve mostly been practicing with the guys, and they’re really helpful and excited for us to get to play,” said McCartin.
The team plans on practicing with the Virginia Tech women’s rugby team later this season in hopes of building rapport with other teams and gaining more playing experience before next year.
“I’m so appreciative of all the girls that have come out to help me start off getting women’s rugby together. It has been so much fun. Everyone has been learning really quickly and working really hard. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who has been coming out.” Karkenny said.