Annual spring trip brings rugby to Trinidad and Tobago

Over spring break, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for ten days. The men’s record was 2-1, while the women’s team went undefeated while abroad over break. Photo By: Vassar College Athletics
Over spring break, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for ten days. The men’s record was 2-1, while the women’s team went undefeated while abroad over break. Photo By: Vassar College Athletics
Over spring break, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for ten
days. The men’s record was 2-1, while the women’s team went undefeated while abroad over break. Photo By: Vassar College Athletics

Over spring break, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams traveled to Trinidad and Tobago. The trip spanned from March 11-19, and the Brewers competed against teams from the region. Coming off of an 8-3-1 fall season, the men’s team went 2-1 while abroad over break. The women’s team, who came off of a mighty 11-3 fall season, went undefeated with a record of 3-0 over the course of the trip.

Head Coach Tony Brown and the team were extremely thankful for the opportunity to travel. “It was wonderful to be able to get outside, with temperatures in the 80’s, and practice,” he wrote in an emailed statement. Senior Rachel Thompson also wrote, “the trip was a lot of fun! It was great to escape the chill of Poughkeepsie and soak up some sun.”

As for the competitive and team aspect of the trip, Thompson was incredibly pleased. “The rugby was also competitive, and a nice opening for the spring season. One of the unique parts of going on tour is making friends with the local teams we play,” she wrote.

“Without fail, they brought us to their clubhouses after the games, fed us delicious food, chatted with us, and made us feel completely welcome.” Thompson was also thankful that the Brewers were able to bond while traveling. “Tour is also a great opportunity for the teams to bond. Our men’s and women’s teams are very supportive of each other, and this just gives us another chance to spend time together.”

Head Coach Brown was also pleased with the competition that the teams faced. “The games we played were against U.19 select sides and the men found them to be good competition, as most of the Trinidad players had more rugby experience and good skills,” he explained. “The Vassar women were much more experienced in the strategy of the game and also had the edge physically being more mature so they won all three of their games. But the important thing was for Vassar to raise the bar in terms of expectations for women’s rugby and that they did by playing well and fairly.”

On March 19, the men’s team was short players due to injury and teamed up with Trinidad players in order to compete. There was, therefore, no final score for this game, as the teams had combined. However, in its other matches, the men’s team lost 15-36 against the Trinidad North U.19 Select XV team, and won its match against the Trinidad South U.19 Select XV team. In this match, which took place on March 15, the team relied on sophomore lock Louis Khourey who had two tries. One of these tries led the team to the 36-28 win.

On March 11, during the first match of the trip, the women’s team started off strong with a solid win against the Trinidad North Junior Presidents XV team. Senior standout Margaret Kwateng had three tries, while Thompson had one. Sophomores Molly Osborn and Isabella Luksh both had extremely significant roles in the win.

Four days later, the women’s team competed against the Trinidad South Junior Select XV team. The final score was a magnificent 54-15. Kwateng had two tried for the Brewers, while freshman Nathalie Freeman had three. Even though two of the team’s players were injured, they managed to pull off the win. In its final game on March 20, the team won with an impressive score of 41-0. Kwateng had four tries.

Brown also noted that the team thoroughly enjoyed its time off the field as well. “Off the rugby field the team visited Tobago, went snorkeling, enjoyed the local culinary dishes, and spent a good amount of time at the beaches,” he wrote.

Looking forward to the spring, optimism reigns supreme with the rugby program. “This spring, we’ll be seeing a lot of skill development from our younger players. Last semester, we had limited ‘B’ games (when rookies typically get their first taste of rugby), but this semester, they should all get lots of field time,” wrote Thompson. “I’m eager to see them play, as they’re the future of the program! We’ll also be playing more sevens rugby this season, which will mix things up a bit and keep us on our toes.” She continued, “Fall season is dedicated to getting to Nationals. And, there are a fair few of us graduating this year, so it’s time for everyone to step up their game in preparation for next season.”

Coach Brown summed up the season and roster. “This spring, we just have one month of games and we will do some development for next fall. This will mean that seniors who started will move position so we can get the underclassmen experience,” he explained. “For example, [senior] Margaret Kwateng will see some time in the backs with [sophomores] Anne Fritzson and Zoe Kurtz playing scrumhalf. [Senior] Karl Foley the men’s scrumhalf will move aside to let [junior] Jake Sheehy get a run there.”

The spring will also feature a couple games that are styled slightly differently, and that gameplay will be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Coach Brown is excited about this opportunity, and wrote, “In addition, we have two 7-a-side Tournaments for each team so we’ll have an opportunity to play this version of the game that will be included in the next summer Olympic Games.”

Recently, the American Collegiate Rugby Association (ACRA) named four of the women’s rugby players as having academic honors. Juniors Margaret Slattery and Kathleen Gould were named to the first team and seniors Natalie Ward and Claire Oxford were named to the second team.

First team players must have a GPA of 3.7 or higher, while second team players must have a 3.5 or above, and both must teams require that the honoree achieve this for at least five semesters.

The spring break trip should serve both the men’s and women’s teams well as they prepare for their five game fall season back at Vassar. The spring season will continue to be a period of growth and training for the team’s upcoming fall season.

The men’s rugby team will next compete on Saturday, April 5 vs. Union College at 2:30 p.m. The women’s game will take place at 11 a.m. against Princeton University. Both games will take place at home on the Vassar Farm.

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