CASTLETON, Vt. –The Castleton University women's rugby team ended its 2018 season on a high note with a dominant 27-7 triumph over LIU Post. The victory was the first in the three-year history of the program as a varsity sport. This year, the team is looking for more.
Head coach Frank Graziano, who has been the first and only person at the helm of the program, is happy with the squad's progress through camp. "We've got a great group of freshmen who are blending not only socially and in the locker room but certainly out on the field. Their talents blend together really well… In our three-year history this is certainly our best camp so far," Graziano said.
Castleton returns seven letter winners from a year ago, including juniors and co-captains Julia May and Mariah Jollie. Katey Harris, Haley Bentley, Mary Bovaconti, Hermany Diaz, and Mikaela Phillips each bring valuable experience to the group. Tovah Coe, Emma Gillette, Cheyenne Jewett, Saidi St. Andrews, Aubrey Tetlow, and Rebecca Towne are the newcomers to the team for the 2019 season.
Bringing in athletes native to other sports, many getting ready to compete in rugby for the first time, the leadership group has focused early on the fundamentals of the game. "We have a lot of freshman who don't have rugby experience, but they are picking up all the drills really quick and learning a lot faster than previous years," May said. "We have a really good group of girls. We spend so much time together that just in a few days we're starting to get really close and come together as a team," Jollie added.
Tetlow, one of the team's newcomers, is pleased with the transition to a new sport. She has playing experience in cross country, basketball, and softball as a three-sport athlete in high school. "It's crazy how fast all the newcomers are learning…I'm learning so much like throwing the ball and safely tackling," she said.
May earned team MVP honors in 2018 and will be heavily relied upon this year. She scored four tries and added four assists on the offensive side of the ball, but also finished second on the squad with 64 solo tackles with 10 assisted tackles. Jollie led the team with six assists and 35 points. Phillips also notched four tries a year ago, while Bovaconti had two and Harris pitched in a single try.
The Spartans will open the season on Saturday, August 31 at 1 p.m. on the road at New England College. "Right now, we're on schedule to do everything we need to do… We're focused on the Pilgrims," Graziano said. "It is nice to have that win in there but we're looking to get a lot more wins this season."