NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University women's rugby team enters fall 15s play with its sights set on a return to the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) playoffs in 2019.
Last season, the Cadets posted a 5-4 overall (and conference) record, falling to Army West Point in the Quarterfinal round of the conference playoffs. Norwich picked up wins over American International College (28-22), the University of New England (52-5), West Chester University (26-24), Colby-Sawyer College (59-15) and Brown University (29-24).
Head coach Austin Hall returns for his 16th year at the helm of the program and is equally excited to see his returners, as well as newcomers. Despite boasting only four seniors, Hall has high praise for his leadership group.
"Senior captain AnnaLeigh Runion (Greenville, S.C.) is back and she is such a hard worker, always out in front in the sprints that we run," Hall said. "It's really nice as a coach to see a senior out there leading the squad. Junior Reagan Aldersea (Schertz, Texas) returns after her NIRA All-Academic team selection last season. She hits hard and steals the ball when she can. Senior Angelica Greene will be running our backfield as a fullback this year. I call her a 'skedaddler' because she runs around everybody, through the spaces, up the field and into the try zone."
Hall welcomes 10 freshmen to the squad for this season and a few have already made some early impressions, "I'm really excited about our freshman class, we have a new center Bianca Klepper who is super-athletic and looks like she will be getting into the try-zone quite a bit this year," Hall said. "Natalie White is doing a really good job of picking up the game early on and should be a solid lock for us this season as well."
The Cadets' schedule will shift in 2019, as for the first time ever they will compete against only Division III opponents. "It's a brand new schedule for us this season "Colby-Sawyer (College) has skyrocketed," Hall said. "Everything I hear about them is that they are getting better every minute. Bowdoin College and New England College should also be contenders this season. We aren't playing as many different teams this year, so we will get a chance to see these squads more than once. Colby-Sawyer is coming off a big win this weekend while we didn't have a match, so Saturday will be a good test for us."
Norwich was picked to finish first in the NIRA Division III Women's Rugby Preseason Poll, garnering all six first-place votes.
Norwich will play each of the five other NIRA Division III institutions once in league matchups this year, as well as three schools twice in "friendly" matches that will not count for the league standings.
Norwich opens the season at Colby-Sawyer College on Saturday, September 7th. That match is slated for 1:00 p.m. The Cadets will welcome the University of New England for their first home match of 2019 during Norwich University's Bicentennial and Homecoming Weekend on Saturday, September 21st at 11:00 a.m.