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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Rugby falls at Elite Eight

 
 

The Texas A&M women’s rugby team saw its season come to an end in the Elite Eight of the national tournament Sunday, losing 67-22 to Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.
The Aggies defeated University of California-Berkeley 39-37 Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the tournament to advance to Sunday’s game. According to senior captain and chemical engineering major Diana Lainez, the Aggies spirit showed through during each of the games.
“Both games showed we never quit,” Lainez said. “[Saturday], we were down two touchdowns and we scored and won in the last four minutes. Our last try was in overtime. That saying, ‘I’ve seen ’em lose but I’ve never seen ’em quit’ – I think that sums up our team perfectly.”
The invitation to the national tournament was A&M’s first since 2010, and this year’s return allowed leadership on the current squad another opportunity at a national title, including head coach Nick James who played on the 2010 team.
“We had a small handful of players who were on the team that went to Sweet 16’s last [time], so they knew what it was like to get there,” James said. “Not being able to make it two years in a row really frustrated them and motivated them to want to get there this year. We’ve had some great players show up over the years and they have kind of all come together this year to make a good team.”
A&M’s season ended at the hands of Stanford, which has been the national runner up for three consecutive seasons. A&M’s path toward the 2013 national tournament started in 2011, when the team lost its head coach.
When James stepped in to fill this position, the program that had made four Sweet 16 appearances gained a new sense of direction. When focus began to fade again a semester ago, the team gathered to regroup.
“At the beginning of this semester we sat down and made a goal,” junior forward Olivia Harrington said. “We made our entire year a focus on intensity and intent. We decided we weren’t going to let anyone keep us [from going] to Sweet 16, mostly because we wanted to get our program back to where it was before.”
The team went undefeated in regular season play with a new sense of focus, going 6-0 while playing Texas, Texas State and Texas Tech two times each.
“When we go to play UT or Tech, they know it’s not going to be a walk in the park,” Harrington said. “We had that three-year gap where people thought they were better and Texas went to Sweet 16’s last year so they thought they were going to come in and run all over us. Instead we ran all over them.”
The team is made up of a wide range of players from many different backgrounds. Harrington, also a member of the A&M power lifting team, got her start when friend and teammate Diana Lainez challenged her, saying she couldn’t be a rugby player.
The team has two players who played in high school, a rarity for the sport. It also has cousins on the team, as well as a sorority member. Through recruiting at MSC Open House and socials before the season, the squad has been able to turn just about anyone into an integral part of the team.
“I feel like sometimes we look like we would all fit together normally,” Harrington said. “But other times we are like, ‘How did you end up here?’ Rugby is a pretty tough sport. There are no pads and you’re running full frontal face into somebody.”
The common interest of trying to make it to another Sweet 16 and further will continue to bond this group of players going forward, as the women’s rugby team strives to build upon their past victories.
“If it wasn’t for some key recruits coming out, sticking with it and developing their game, this team wouldn’t be who it is today,” James said. “Everyone from [Harrington] the power lifter who came out to prove her friend wrong to the person who always wanted to hit someone. It’s vital to the continued progress and performance of the team.”

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