Who said that girls can’t hit hard and don’t want it rough, dirty and fast? Definitely not the UCSB women’s rugby club team.
The women’s team takes just as many hits as the guys and proved it during last weekend’s pummeling of Arizona State University 14-8. UCSB sophomore Niki Palmer went to the hospital after suffering a back injury in a scrum.
“Our team was devastated after Niki left the game,” senior Brenda Baxter said. “At the end of the first half, [ASU] was up 8-0. It looked like they were gonna win, but we got really fired up at halftime.”
The coach’s speech at halftime must have worked because Santa Barbara scored at the beginning of the second half and again at the end of the game to finish the day with 14 points. The team is happy to clinch a victory over ASU, especially going into this weekend’ s road trip to Arizona where it will meet up with ASU again, as well as the University of Arizona.
“[These] are really the last two games we have before our tournament in April,” said Palmer, who is recovering with a sore back.
Santa Barbara hopes to improve on its 3-2 record this weekend, while sending five graduating seniors out on a high note. Three of the five seniors – Erica Shepherd, Sarah Bow and Baxter – founded the club in 1999.
No matter how this weekend pans out, the Gauchos will host a tournament on April 26-27. Thirty men’s teams and over 10 women’s teams will come to Santa Barbara for the tourney.
“The tournament used to be a lot bigger,” Palmer said. “But it’s still a lot of fun. A lot of teams show up.”
UCSB will seek revenge against UC San Diego at the tournament. The Tritons handed the Gauchos their only two losses this season. UCSD crushed Santa Barbara 54-0 on Jan. 26 and 5-3 on Feb. 23.
“Our team really turned around our season,” junior team president Wendy Willett said. “We showed [UCSD] we could compete with them and they weren’t gonna blow through everyone in the league this season.”
With a relatively young team this year, next season’s prospects look excellent with over half of the squad’s starters returning for another round of necessary roughness. The veterans are excited about the present and future of UCSB rugby.
“I’m proud of how we played and how we came together as a team,” Willett said. “It looks good for the future of our club.”