December 16, 2022 | SPORTS | By Lorea Zabaleta | Photo courtesy of author

As the off-season progresses and the spring approaches, Colorado College Cutthroat Rugby’s coach and a few players look back on a successful fall 15s season.

The Cutthroats compete in Division II women’s rugby but are not a women’s team, as some members of the team do not identify as women. The change from being called the CC Women’s Rugby team to the Cutthroats was made several years ago to better allow freedom for the players to express themselves and avoid dysphoria, said Delaney Kenyon ’23, one of the team captains.

Cutthroats is also “a super badass name,” said Kenyon.

The team plays two seasons each year: one in the fall with 40-minute halves and 15 players per team on the field, called 15s, and one in the spring with seven-minute halves and seven players per team on a full-size field.

Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent bankruptcy of USA Rugby, the team has missed two spring sevens seasons and one 15s season in the last three years. Come September 2022, the Cutthroats were finally back in larger numbers and able to practice and compete without restrictions in 15s, but lost many experienced players to graduation.

The plethora of new players, however, picked up the sport quickly, and the team went on to win four of six games, only losing the initial two. Unfortunately, those early losses were both conference games, eliminating the Cutthroats from advancing to the playoffs.

Kenyon said despite losing to Colorado Mesa University and the Colorado School of Mines, the Cutthroats played better against them than they had ever seen in five years of playing at CC. Mesa would later go on to place second in the College Rugby Association of America Division II National Championships.

The Cutthroats then went on to be undefeated in its next few games, sometimes even playing with only ten players on the field or offering players to other teams who couldn’t field enough. In three of those games, the only tries scored against the Cutthroats were by their own teammates. The team also won its Homecoming game against the United States Air Force Academy for the first time in several years.

Vic Tise, the team’s coach of nearly seven years, said the in-season progress was partly due to the rookies’ “coachableness” and natural athleticism of many of the newcomers (in case you were wondering, I am not in this category).

He said some of the team’s sophomores have skills that take “two or three years” to develop.

Kenyon said, “the rookie class was incredible,” picked up the sport quickly, and were just excited and ready to play.

They also said the Cutthroat leadership had “strong organizational” skills, which got “everyone up and running” in time and recognized the strengths and weaknesses of players to figure out ideal positions for everyone and to foster individual abilities and goals.

“I really didn’t expect to have this much love for a sport and a team that I basically knew nothing about,” said rookie Mira Giles-Pufahl ’25. “It has been such a joy to be on the team.”

Even though it was “chaotic” and “overwhelming” for the first week (month) of practice and games, Giles-Pufahl said it was a “phenomenal” feeling to get that first tackle in a game.

Tise noticed lots of improvement throughout the season, specifically around  certain players beginning to run “into space” and avoid the congestion in the middle of the field to get longer runs, while others learned to crash hard into contact instead of stopping beforehand and losing momentum.

He thinks the team will be “competitive” come spring sevens with the possibility of going to Sweet Sixteen in Pittsburg, even with facing up against Mesa and Mines again. In the spring of 2019, the Cutthroats placed 14th, and a 2022 appearance would be their first since the pandemic broke a four year streak.

Kenyon is also looking forward to the spring sevens season.

It’s a “much different game, she said. “I’m excited to see how it turns out. We have a lot of incredibly speedy people on our team, I think that’ll work out well for our advantage.”

Fifteens can be a bit more of a “brutes game” where “you’re just crashing, crashing, crashing, tackling, tackling, tackling,” Kenyon added. “But sevens can be a lot more strategic and exciting.”

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