Erika Figueroa is a junior at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, where she is equal parts studious and strong — she plays the eight-man position for their women’s rugby team. The St. Mike’s women’s rugby team is currently ranked sixth in the nation for division two universities, a feat made possible by the team’s hard work, dedication, and passion for the sport.
Her Campus UMass Amherst: What are you studying at St. Mike’s and why did you choose your major?
Erika Figueroa: I’m studying biology with a concentration in pre-health and pre-nursing. I chose biology because I’ve always been interested in how the body functions. I want a rewarding career where I can help others, and through biology I believe I can achieve that.
HC: You are on the schools rugby team — how has being a part of that team transformed your college experience?
EF: Being part of the women’s rugby program has completely transformed my college experience. It was the best decision I’ve made since deciding to attend St. Mikes. I’ve gained another family. My teammates are my best friends on campus. Joining in the fall of my freshman year made the transition from high school to college easy.
HC: Being a student athlete can be demanding. How do you balance school and practice?
EF: Balancing school and rugby has been a rollercoaster. I didn’t find a balance until my sophomore year. Finding a balance is all about time management and understanding that you are a student before an athlete. Tuesday through Friday I have practice from 4:30 to 6:15 p.m., and I consider that time a break from school, but after that I hit the books and spend my evenings studying. I do balance having a social life with rugby and school, but only by prioritizing school.
HC: Your rugby team has been undefeated the last two seasons and were the champions of the northeast division. What was that like for you to experience and how do you think your team accomplished these victories?
EF: Being back to back Rugby Northeast Champions has been an incredible experience. It’s also rewarding because we’ve put so much time and effort to make our program what it is. Coming into preseason the past two years, we’ve set the bar high and expect nothing less. Leave it all on the pitch. We work hard at every practice and hold each other accountable. Having love for the game and love and respect for each other has allowed us to be successful. In fall 2015, we won our conference, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and were ranked seventh in the nation in Division Two. In fall 2016, we won our conference again, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight and were ranked 6th in the nation. I’m so proud of these accomplishments and grateful to be part of the women’s rugby program.
HC: What advice would you have to freshmen who were considering trying a new sport in college? We know you played soccer for years before trying rugby. Do you regret switching sports or was it an improvement?
EF: I would tell incoming freshmen to try something new and definitely get involved on campus. I wanted to be part of a sports team again, but I also wanted to try something new. At times I miss playing soccer, but my short career as a rugby player has been a rewarding and memorable experience. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and I’m grateful for that.
HC: What quote do you live by, if any?
EF: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent and the choices you make will shape your life forever.”
HC: What’s your favorite pump-up song before a match?
EF: My favorite song before a match is “Headlines” by Drake.
HC: What had been your favorite memory from your time playing rugby?
EF: My favorite memory from rugby is the conference championship game this past fall. We traveled to Roger Williams on their senior day game. In the first half Roger Williams was so close to scoring, but we held them scoreless in the first half. We played 35 minutes of defense. That was the hardest half I’ve ever had to play. We were ahead going into the second half but the scoring went back and forth. We would score, Roger Williams would answer. Going into the final three minutes of the game tied, five meters out from their tri-zone, I called a play, passed the ball to my teammate and watched her score to put us ahead. I remember the crowd erupting and a flood of emotions that came over me. It was an incredible feeling.
All photos courtesy of Erika Figueroa.