On April 2, the New Paltz women’s rugby football club hosted the 4th Annual Ruckfest, a tournament featuring eight rugby teams from around the state, and won in dramatic, triple-overtime fashion.
The New Paltz women’s rugby team, ranked 14th in the nation, faced Division I juggernaut Cornell in the tournament’s final. Both teams went undefeated in pool play, and met each other in a wild final game.
After tying in regulation, New Paltz and Cornell followed with two scoreless five minute overtimes.
The drama intensified in the crowd as Nora Westcott, a fourth-year Spanish major, took the field for a tie-breaking best-out-of-five drop-kick off. After missing her first kick, Westcott sent four kicks through the uprights, and the Cornell kicker could not match it. Westcott earned herself the tournament’s MVP, and made New Paltz the Ruckfest champion.
As Westcott ran over to her teammates to celebrate, tears fell and emotions were high.
“It was nerve wracking,” Westcott said, “The coach came over and said, ‘You can do this.’ It was inspiring and I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Matt Kosiorowski, the former women’s rugby coach from 2006 to 2010, was happy to see the team win by kicks, following their work through the end.
“The core seniors have done so much over the years, to bring along the new girls,” Kosiorowski said, “And the seniors have really come full circle. They won the first Ruckfest four years ago when they were freshmen, and now they have won it again.”
Kosiorowski also said that this year’s tournament contained the highest level of competition since it began, signifying the growth of Ruckfest. Despite the happy ending, however, the day’s events did not occur without complaint.
The tournament took place on the school’s rugby field, but according to the players, they tried to expand to the adjacent practice field. However, the second field was deemed unplayable by the athletic department, and all eight teams had to play on the same field, cutting the games to two 10-minute halves.
Joe Deck, the coordinator of intramurals in the athletic department, said that he told the women’s rugby team that a second field would not be guaranteed and would have to depend on the weather.
“We have athletic practice, intramural events, other club sports games and practices,” Deck said, “And could not risk destroying them and having unplayable fields for the rest of the semester, canceling the other events scheduled on [the field].”
The athletic department’s decision still left many players on the rugby team confused as to why they were denied access to a second field, considering the fair weather.
“They said we couldn’t get the field because we’d wreck it,” said Asuka Kumagai, a fourth-year secondary education and Asian studies major, “But the soccer team has cleats too, and it doesn’t make sense.”
The women’s rugby team originally requested to use the turf field for the tournament, but the athletic department said it was reserved for the varsity team’s practice.
Kate Blessing, a fourth-year journalism and visual arts major, was one of many on the women’s rugby team who felt they were treated unfairly in the eyes of the athletic department. For the tournament, the school was unable to secure an on-site ambulance in case of injury, and instead of supplying a school-employed trainer, an athletic trainer from Bard College was hired.
Deck said the school has a policy that the New Paltz’s athletic trainers are not allowed to see non-varsity student athletes.
“With over 300 student athletes on-campus and only two full-time athletic trainers their time is limited so they are unable to service our club sport athletes,” Deck said.
Despite school policy, the women’s rugby team thought they deserved more aid due to the success of Ruckfest, and because of its growing reputation for one of the biggest tournaments in the state.
“It’s an embarrassment for eight teams to come from all over the state for us to only have one field,” Blessing said.
Although many involved in the rugby culture at New Paltz felt the tournament has growing potential to host more teams and appeal to better teams, the outcome of the day left smiles on many faces. The tournament acted as a benefit for the New Paltz Fire Department, as it has for the past four years, and the women’s rugby team reigned victorious. Again.