Fairfield’s women’s rugby team has quietly become one of the best in the country

Birge played rugby in  high school at Fairfield Prep, during which he toured Ireland. At Fairfield, he was selected co-captain his sophomore and junior years and team president his senior year. He also was the Doug E. Ciacci Award winner — given to the team’s most valuable player. After college, he played one season with the prestigious New Haven All-Blacks men’s rugby club and still plays in tournaments.

Rugby is growing in popularity, not only at Fairfield but also across the nation, and Birge thinks that Fairfield has some particular advantages where the sport is concerned.

“Fairfield is unique since it is a Division I University without a varsity football or ice hockey team as well as without fraternities or sororities,” observed Birge. “I feel that this presents a definite advantage to rugby by giving the men’s and women’s programs a larger pool of students to recruit from. It can be played by the most skilled athletes or by a person who has never competed in a team sport before. On top of all this, team camaraderie and the social aspect of rugby is always attractive to new players.”

Birge said barriers are crumbling that prevented women from enjoying the sport.

“I feel that the stereotypes usually associated with women’s rugby and women rugby players are being completely broken down. Some of my players have even been cheerleaders and dance team members. Yes, it is a tough sport, but when played correctly it is a fun game to participate in.”

The Fairfield women play in the Empire/MetNY Rugby Football Union Division III, and regular season games consist of matches against Fordham University, Sacred Heart University, Molloy College, Drew University, and Bard College. The team also competes in a number of tournaments in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

The team faces new challenges this year, as 12 of the team’s starting 15 players graduated last spring. Also, it is likely that this season the team will be without junior and MetNY league-leading scorer, Maggie DeMoura, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered during the Stags’ national quarterfinal match against Lock Haven University last November.

“However, we have an amazing cast of younger players to jump right in and fill some big shoes,” said Birge. “I’m hoping for big things from our team captains — Amanda Carchietta ’14 and Elizabeth ‘Sandal’ Cortez ’13. Amanda is one of our ‘flankers’ and is someone who can be counted on for big tackles and strong running. Sandal is our ‘flyhalf’ and will be our play-maker on the field.”

The team will also rely on junior ‘scrumhalf’ Becca Ponessa ’14.

“Becca has improved tremendously over two seasons and was selected to the MetNY U-23 All-Star team as a 19-year-old,” Birge said.

Other players who will be crucial to the team’s success will be Bridget Wakelin ’15, Kaitlin McEwan ’15, Danielle Hill ’15, Morgan Carey ’14, and Kilee Bayne ’14.

Birge would love to see both the men and women’s rugby clubs attain varsity status.

“With the popularity of the game growing (women’s rugby is already considered an ‘NCAA Emerging Sport’), the success and history of the teams at Fairfield, and the fact that it is a very affordable sport, I can see a proposal presented very soon. I think it will be tough to ignore.”

Nobody is ignoring the Fairfield University women’s rugby team, that’s for sure.

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