Blackpack’s Road to Redemption
Team (v): to come together to achieve a common goal. PC women’s rugby not only comes together; we fight together, win together, and lose together (but not this season…)
Providence College’s Women’s Rugby team leads our division as we conquer the Fall season undefeated (7-0) and head to Maryland for playoffs with 2 of the top 4 scorers in the Rugby Northeast Conference. Not only have we been dominating on the field, but our bond off the field is stronger than most. Between the girls’ positive energy, Coach Mike Cox’s unmatched humor, and the physicality of the game, joining this team has been one of the best choices I have made in my college experience thus far. In the words of Junior AJ Navarro, “Blackpack is family. We take care of each other. I have never felt more accepted, celebrated, and loved by a group of people in my life”.
Not even 4 years ago, due to Blackpack’s small numbers, the school had planned to shut down the women’s program. “Coach pulled us (freshmen at the time), aside after a couple of hard losses and asked what we thought about the future”, says Team President and Senior Kiernan Wackerbath. She says it had felt as if the team’s future lay in their hands. “All four of us just kind of looked at each other and said we wanted to stick with it and build the program with him”. Wackerbath views this decision as a pivotal moment for the team. “Now going into senior year with a roster of 21 girls, undefeated, and into playoffs as the number one seed in our conference, I’ve never been so grateful for that conversation Coach had with us four years ago and seeing the successful turnaround”.
As mentioned before, the team’s bond is special and unbreakable. Though most teams have good energy and a powerful dynamic, PC’s Blackpack brings a whole new meaning. Quite literally, our team must be connected as one unit to play the sport. Rugby is all close contact. We physically and mentally rely on all 15 players on the field at a time, and in the words of AJ, “when we work as individual parts of a larger machine, we shine. Everybody understands that we are working toward a common goal and the best way to obtain a common goal is to work with each others’ strengths…This team supports each other as much outside of rugby as we do in the rugby world”.
Rugby is a tough sport that takes a heavy toll on one’s body. I am constantly in awe of my teammates’ fearlessness when running at top speed toward the defense or sacrificing their own bodies for a tackle. And yet, we have a roster full of committed players who show up sporting bruises, black eyes, and concussions. The pack is so solid because “we are able to put people in different positions to highlight their strengths”, says Navarro. Assistant coach Yvette always says that the reason players tend to get more thrown around is due to a lack of fitness. She takes this quite seriously and gives us a new Workout Of the Day (WAD) every practice. Our team and coaches do not take conditioning lightly. We are expected to give our all during team lifts and practices every single time. I can speak for the whole team when I say that rugby is a sport that should be trained for, mentally and physically, and Blackpack is now certainly at that level. Top scorer Adelis Ortiz Liriano states, “our conditioning has kept us on top of our game and pushed us forward. We are getting stronger and faster to perform better on the field… When I first joined, what caught my attention was how much close contact we are able to do. What kept me around, though, despite it being a very physically demanding sport, is the team”.
“Nothing worthwhile ever comes easily.”Grace Russo
Without a doubt, the environment that the women’s rugby team has created is the most comforting and welcoming space I have ever been in. Vice President Alex McGovern (the Hulk) describes her passion for the team by stating that “all of the girls have always been extremely supportive. As a senior, I love being able to see the younger, newer players create friendships and be able to fall in love with the sport just like I did. I think the close dynamic of the team has pushed us into becoming a better and more successful team”. Similarly, Freshman and one of the division’s top scorers, Grace Russo, explains that, “the leadership on this team has pushed us forward and is why we are where we are. The upperclassmen have guided rookies like myself who had never touched a rugby ball before this season and have all led by example, always giving their all in practices and leaving it all out in the field in games. They inspire me to give the game my all and try to make them proud”. Clearly, the balance between the efforts of the newcomers and the leadership of the upperclassmen keeps the pack thriving.
The dynamic only grows with the quality time we spend with one another. Team activities include dinners, creating intramural sports teams, watching other rugby games, movie nights, and study sessions. Becoming closer helps us motivate each other in practice and in life. “We know when to push each other. We know when someone needs a hug. This team is my chosen family; we all bring out the best in each other and support each other,” says Freshman Simone Cooper (Coop). Most notably, the Pack’s sense of humor is beyond compare. “With the many nicknames we have for each other, it feels like an inside joke that makes you feel officially welcomed into the family,” says Addy. If there’s one thing I can expect out of practice, it’s constant laughter (and Yvette’s grueling WADs).
“The trust and community we have makes this team truly unique and I am grateful to be a part of this special pack.”Christina Andruss
Despite the physical toll rugby has on players, My teammates never cease to amaze me when giving their all on the field. I am forever grateful for the sport and team I just could not resist. As Navarro puts it, “I would spend the rest of my life covered in bruises and turf burn if it meant feeling as loved as I do on this team”. Not to mention, the unbelievable pride of the program and the young women who ensured it would one day have a legacy. Here we are, a fully-rostered and undefeated Blackpack with years of future PC ruggers to come.