The Crimson White

Club rugby team strives for chemistry

Sean Landry

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The University of Alabama women’s club rugby team has one clear-cut goal for this year: chemistry, on and off the pitch.

“I’ve actually been amazed by how friendly everyone’s been since I’ve been here,” Shellby Benefield, a junior majoring in chemical engineering and a first-year rugby player, said. “I’ve heard some of the other club teams are more about ‘If you’re really good you’ll fit in.’ But here I’m brand new, and don’t really know about it, but everyone took me in. I’ve really been impressed by that.”

Jessica King, a senior majoring in English and a founding member of the club, said the welcoming philosophy is one of the most important aspects of the sport.

“My rugby teammates are my friends,” King said. “I can probably count on my hands the number of friends I have on this campus outside of my teammates. And so that’s what we like to build. Yeah, we want to win. More importantly, we want you to be here and be inside this community. We want to win, but we also want to build that sense of camaraderie that comes with the whole sport of rugby.”

For King, that spirit of fellowship has already paid real-life dividends. While in New Zealand on a semester abroad, King said rugby offered her a support system and identifier that would not have been available otherwise.

“I walked in, and I was a rugby player. I couldn’t do that as a softball player or football player. I couldn’t go worldwide and still be accepted in that community. So that’s what we want to build here.”

Coach Alex Davenport expects this friendship to pay dividends on the field. Much of the first practice is dedicated to team-building exercises. The 30 girls sprint to the corners of the field, tasked with learning facts about their teammates: names, majors, families and class schedules. By the end of the first practice, the girls are expected to have met and learned the names of three new teammates.

To club president Caitlin Reilly, chemistry is the key to her vision for the club.

“On the field, I’m looking for us to play as a team, which we usually don’t have a problem with,” she said. “I’m just looking for that chemistry and passion.”

The team will get a chance to test their teamwork on Sept. 28, when it hosts North Georgia and possibly Wake Forest in a round-robin tournament. In the fall season, the club will work to grow as a team in preparation for the spring season, when national competition begins.

The women’s rugby club practices on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the University Recreation fields.

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Club rugby team strives for chemistry