Coast Guard Women's Rugby Succeeds on National Stage

It was another outstanding Fall for the women's rugby club team as the Bears advanced to the USA Rugby Division II Fall Championship for the second straight season.

Last spring, the Bears won their fifth straight New England Wide Collegiate Rugby Conference (NEWCRC) championship advancing to the USA Rugby National Championship.

"There isn't a better teacher then experience and in last year's Final Four we learned a lot about what it takes to get there and to enjoy the journey," said Coast Guard head coach Bill Anderson. "We were much looser, played better and I believe we enjoyed this year much more then 2016."

The women's rugby club team began in 1999 when the "Founding Mothers" Katie Simone, Dawn Cassady Prebula and Kate Alberts Johns, among other of the Class of 2000 started the club team on their own initiative and it has been a seen steady upward progress since.

This year the Bears' roster features 10 seniors, nine of whom have been with the team for at least the last three seasons. Madeline Chafin, Emma Hvodovich, Marisa Rodriguez, Allison Rychtanek, Ashley Palmieri, Linda Drake, Sydney Vignola, Angel Fay and Ashlee Johnson along with Maral Toukhanin, a newcomer this season, make up the senior class.

"When you have nine seniors who have been with the program for the last three years and you have that kind of cohesion, good things are bound to happen," said Anderson. "The combination of their hard work, dedication, leadership and commitment to each other and the underclass has made for a number of pretty successful seasons."

The Bears follow a "15 as 1" philosophy stressing that every member of the team is as important as the other, but the team was led by USA Rugby All-American's Fay and junior Hayden Short on the pitch. Vignola, the team president, Palmieri, the backs captain and Rodriguez, the forwards captain, kept the team focused and on track throughout the season.

"Coaches John McCormick, Diana Tkacs Ferguson, Rebecca Redstone, and Caroline Gilmore Sponseller have all had significant influence on the success of the team, and I thank them all," said Anderson. "I believe the rugby program is turning out the exact type of leader that we want in the fleet:  They work as a team, are tough and can think on their feet … They've got "grit". I would like to thank all of our alumni and friends for their continued support and many thanks to the families, past & present, many of whom traveled from all over the U.S. to Poughkeepsie, Kutztown, Annapolis and Greenville, over the last few years."

Coast Guard returns four juniors, 12 sophomores and nine freshmen next season and they have large shoes to fill, but because of their dedication and drive they look forward to the challenge of continuing the success of the team's that have come before them.