AHO women’s rugby national title race ends


Courtesy of Abby Beaver

AHO women’s rugby lost to Howard 38-26 in the women’s final of the Division II playoffs April. 23, 2023.

Sarah Kruger, Reporter

Thus the title race has ended. After a two-day tournament, AHO women’s rugby fell to Howard 38-26 in the Division II women’s final of the CGRU 2023 East College Regional Playoffs in Gastonia April 23. 

The loss comes after AHO women’s rugby beat Eckerd 49-15 in the women’s semi-final Saturday. They will not advance to the National Championships held in Houston May 6-7.

Head coach Paige Bramblett said going into the weekend matches, AHO women’s rugby were facing two “really, really tough” opponents. Bramblett specifically noted Saturday’s match against Eckerd was incredibly physical, and players were “pretty bruised up from the tough game on Saturday.”

AHO started out strong with a decisive win over Eckerd. Bramblett said AHO women’s rugby “brought the same level” as Eckerd and played “really, really strong in the first 10 minutes,” something the team had been working on in training. 

The consequences of the physicality of AHO’s win against Eckerd came to fruition in their Sunday match against Howard. 

Bramblett said the team started the match out strong, and were tied with Howard until the last 10 minutes of the match. They said the team’s inability to secure a win came down to two primary things: loss of numbers due to injury and stamina. 

By the last two minutes of the match against Howard, Bramblett said the team was only playing with “12 or 13 players.” 

Additionally, they reiterated that those players at the end of the Howard match, were the same players who had played a full 80 minutes on Saturday against Eckerd. 

AHO women’s rugby was down players due to injury, and those still on the field were battered and bruised as the result of playing two back-to-back 80-minute physical matches. 

However, despite the Sunday loss AHO women’s rugby have nothing to be ashamed of. They played two incredibly strong teams, one of which they beat by over 30 points, and did so on the back of an incredibly successful, nearly undefeated season. 

Additionally, the weekend highlighted some absolutely standout players, the most notable of which was freshman kicker Ashtyn Kelly, who scored five tries and 10 conversions over the course of both matches. 

With this loss, AHO women’s rugby’s hopes of competing in their second-consecutive National Championship in Texas vanish. However, AHO women’s rugby is already looking ahead to upcoming seasons and are steadily working toward that title. 

Bramblett said that in order to maintain and grow the club’s level of success for next year, they were going to focus on two things: recruitment and increasing the team’s “rugby IQ” — essentially every member of the team’s tactical knowledge of the sport which is utilized to play more tactically sophisticated rugby. 

While looking to improve in the future, Bramblett said they were proud of their team and what they have accomplished. 

“They pushed me to be a better coach,” Bramblett said. “I admire their dedication and their sportsmanship and their grit.”

Additionally, the loss comes after six players were selected to compete in the U23 team for the DC Annual Ruggerfest Tournament April 15-16.