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Women's rugby team heading to Nationals

The La Salle women’s rugby team advanced to the Division II national championship tournament with a win on Sunday.

In a win-and-in game against Georgetown, the team defeated the Hoyas in emphatic fashion, 27-0. It is the first time in the team’s history that it will be heading to nationals, which will take place April 17, 18 and 19 in Sanford, Fla., about 25 miles north of Orlando.

“The team has really progressed in the last few years,” Matt Gionta, director of campus recreation, said.

Just three seasons ago, the team was in Division IV, but after winning two championships at the lower divisions, La Salle has become an elite team in Division II.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Gionta said. “In just two years, they have improved to one of the top 16 teams in Division II. As a university, we’re proud of their accomplishments.”

The team entered the weekend with two ways to crack the tournament. If they could defeat Delaware on Saturday, they would be guaranteed a berth in the national tournament. However, the team lost 19-5, leaving them only one more opportunity. If they could defeat Georgetown, they would gain the third automatic spot for their conference.

Every conference in Division II sends two teams to nationals. The conferences of the teams that played in the championship last season send three. Fortunately for the Explorers, defending champion Shippensburg plays in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union with La Salle.

“We had a second opportunity to get to nationals after the loss to Delaware because Shippensburg won the whole thing last year,” junior Maria Muscara said. “We weren’t going to let another chance slip through our fingers.”

The blowout win showed off what the team, according to Muscara, is all about. There is no individual superstar, only a “true team.”

“It was a combined team effort,” she said. “We spread it around. We were in control of the game for the entire 80 minutes.”

The win qualified the Explorers for nationals. Responses varied.

“We’re in the Sweet 16!” elated junior Mary Kate Kimiecik said.

“We’re screwed,” Muscara said.

As the recently-elected president of the women’s rugby club, Muscara knows as well as anyone the financial strain that the win is going to place on the team.

The regional tournament, where the team played Delaware and Georgetown, was held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. The weekend before, the team traveled to Farmville, Va. for a qualifying game.

Between travel, food and lodging, the team’s budget and monies collected at various fundraisers throughout the semester have been exhausted.

“We need to come up with, well, a lot of money to go,” Muscara said. “We need it pretty much immediately, too.”

Immediately, in this case, means by the end of next week. If the women take a plane, they will leave April 17. They will most likely drive, though, and have to leave April 16. Muscara is currently looking into quotes for charter buses, as another option.

“Unfortunately, you can’t budget for this,” Gionta said. “We’re going to figure out a good way to get them there. We’re working with the Athletic Business Office, and we’re going to ask the university for some help on this. The girls deserve to go.”

The team will adopt a fundraising strategy similar to what, according to Muscara, many service trips do: call mom and dad.

“We’re going to send letters home to family members asking for help,” she said. “But we’ll do anything we need to do. The [men’s club lacrosse team] is letting us sell 50-50’s at their game, we might work concessions, anything. We’re not leaving any stone unturned.”

George Rohonczy, president of the lacrosse club, said that the team was happy to help.

“You sort of have to watch each other’s back with the club sports,” he said. “So many of my friends are on the rugby team, and we’re glad to help them.

“And I know that if we need help raising some money later if we have to go somewhere far for our nationals, I know they’ll help us.”

Rohonczy knows what it is like to miss a game at nationals. Last year, the lacrosse club had an opportunity to play at nationals but could not attend, because they received only one day’s notice. This year, he’s made preparations that could allow La Salle to host an early round of nationals.

With the success of these two club sports and the mergence of Department of Recreation with the Athletic Department earlier this semester, more money could be possible.

“We’ll have to set up a possible contingency plan in the future,” Gionta said. “We can’t let these girls not play.”

Muscara echoes the sentiment. “We’re not going to not go because of money,” she said. “We will find a way to go.”

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