They’re loud, they’re fast and they’re not afraid. The ground during practice time at Underhill quakes under their collective movement, and you can barely hear your own thoughts amongst the intense direction of coaches and captains. After months of practicing 3 nights a week, plus film sessions and weight lifting, they’re on their way to national recognition. And it’s time for you to know what they’re all about.

For head coach Ellen Owens, it’s a landmark year out of her 15 seasons coaching this team, and she couldn’t be prouder. Owens, who played in the 1980s as a grad student, attributes women’s rugby’s growing popularity to the overall movement of athletics becoming much more “acceptable” as a pastime for young women. “Every year these players get faster and stronger, and this year we are well on our way to a national title.”

But it’s become so much more than a means of exercise for these athletes. Wing-position player and graduating senior Janae Henderson explains, “Rugby challenges you … mentally, physically and emotionally. For me, it was instant love [since freshman year].” Backs captain Maricel Quirindongo-Crespo echoes these sentiments, adding that rugby is her “relief away from school” and has fought to continue playing despite her parents’ concerns over serious collarbone injuries in the past.

The resilience and grit of these young women has certainly paid off. Bri Arsenault, an intern with Sports Med and currently working her fourth season with the team, declares this current one to be one of the “best years to date”, attributing their team chemistry and relentlessness to be a major factor in their success. A lack of varsity recognition and funding at the college level also certainly hasn’t stopped this clan – for freshman Genevieve Ireland, flanker and 8-man, rugby represents a career well beyond her college years. With rugby making its official debut in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Ireland “makes life fit around [rugby]” in order to pursue playing professionally in the future. If that’s not dedication, we don’t know what is. And this kind of drive and excellence isn’t blowing over anytime soon.

Indeed, last month, Cal Women’s Rugby traveled to Oregon to play the University of Oregon team, crushing them in a breath-taking 76-0 defeat. Clinching a second place finish in their conference, the team is now headed to Nationals in the “Round of 16s” at Stanford on April 20. Toned, tan, fit and ready – we think it’s safe to say that all them other teams should definitely watch out.

On that note, Go Bears!

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