The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women’s rugby club team won the National Collegiate Rugby Division II National Championship on Dec. 4 in Houston.
UW-Eau Claire defeated Marquette University 78-0 in the championship match after beating Roger Williams University in Rhode Island 44-0 in the semifinals. This is the first year National College Rugby began sanctioning Division II competition.
The team, which won the Great Waters Conference made up of teams from Wisconsin, Illinois and the Upper Peninsula this fall, outscored its opponents 392-0 during the conference playoffs and national tournament.
“We had this goal for the season,” says coach Derek Wagner, who has coached the team for nine years. “I feel we’ve been continuing to grow season after season, and in the back of our minds we thought this was the place we could get to. We all understood we had all the pieces to the puzzle and we were good enough to compete with anybody.”
Wagner says that his team’s depth allowed the Blugolds to win handily in games on back-to-back days in the national championship. He credits the coaching staff, including assistant Rachel Lange, and captains Becky Kasprzak and Abbey Jacobs for their leadership.
UW-Eau Claire rugby coaches recruit potential players during the first week of school, Wagner says. About 90% of the players have never played rugby before attending UW-Eau Claire. Once they discover rugby, they love the competition and physicality of the sport, he says.
“The players continue to come to practice and continue to learn new things,” Wagner says. “We really create a family atmosphere; that’s really important to our club.”
UW-Eau Claire also won club national titles in both men’s and women’s volleyball in April at the 2022 National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Division III national championships.