Women’s rugby players make regional team

By Robert Myers Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State women’s rugby team had a big weekend as they sent six members and one alumni to join the Prairie States Select Side regional team and won a five-team sevens tournament in Sioux Falls with their remaining members.

Bryn Chivers, who currently coaches at Augustana, headed up the Prairie States team which was made of players from five schools whom he handpicked for the six-team tournament in Davenport, Iowa that featured players from all over the Midwest.

Chivers’ background includes experience in coaching national teams and competing as a player for many years. Earlier in the year he held a camp which most of the players attended. He used that experience and watching them play at tournaments to select his team.

Kelly Beneke, Kristin Getschmann, Angela Handzus, Devin Jacobs, Megan Kennedy, Ashlee Stepp and alumni Morgan Myers were Chiver’s chosen ones to play on the 20-member under-24 team this year.

“It’s amazing that so many of our girls got chosen,” said Team Captain Cady Olson. “Most of these girls haven’t played very long. In the big scheme of things they seem very young. … Getting an opportunity like this is just great. It’s such a unique experience.”

In the case of Handzus and Stepp, Olson was spot on. Combined, their rugby experience only adds up to a couple games, but that did not disqualify them from being chosen.

“If Bryn sees something in you, he knows so much about rugby that even if you know nothing about rugby he sees the potential in you,” Kennedy said.

Joining the SDSU contingent were familiar competitors suddenly turned teammates, all of them with only a single two-hour practice to get to know one another heading into the weekend.  

“We had to put our grudges aside to actually be able to play with them and not like butt heads with them,” Getschmann said.  

To endorse intermingling amongst the different teams, Chivers laid down several rules including no texting and no sitting just with one’s teammates. For Kennedy, the camaraderie she shared with her new teammates was an experience she embraced.

“The unique thing about playing on a regional team is what it says about the true camaraderie you see in rugby,” Kennedy said. “We all play hard against each other, but when we have to play together, your old team doesn’t matter anymore. You are a part of the Prairie States team. That’s your new team, and the other team is your new enemy.”

The Prairie States team only won one game over the weekend, but the experience they now bring back to their SDSU teammates is invaluable according to those who attended.

“He has such a good background of teaching rugby and he’s so experienced,” Beneke said. “Anything he tells you is really useful to bring back to your own team and implement it.”

Despite being short-handed, the remaining Jacks traveled down to Sioux Falls where they won all four games to win the championship, winning 25-0 over Wayne State College, 43-0 over USD, 20-7 over Simpson College and 34-5 over a combined team from Augustana and Northern State.

“Not all of them [who played with the regional team] are necessarily sevens players,” Olson said. “Sevens rugby is a little different, a lot faster pace. It did hurt us that a couple of our really fast girls were gone, but we have a deep bench and there were a lot of girls who were willing to step up this weekend.”

Next up for SDSU rugby will be its first ever alumni day, which will take place April 18.

Beyond that, nothing is set in stone. Olson said there is a chance of competing in the national seven’s tournament, but first they must have their petition to compete in the tournament accepted and decide whether they can afford to travel to New York.

Looking further into the future of SDSU women’s rugby, Olson said the team’s request for varsity status still remains up in the air as the athletic department is currently focusing on other matters.