May 5, 2023 | SPORTS | By Lorea Zabaleta, Cutler Publications President

Disclaimer: This article is written by a member of the Cutthroat Rugby team.

12:04 p.m. April 29. It is the second day of the National Collegiate Rugby 7s National Championships in Washington, D.C. Two teams from the Women’s Small College Division are facing off to decide which will enter the top ten in the nation. But wait, it appears to be just one team, half with jerseys inside out, all playing each other.

Following the chaos of inclement weather the previous day, South Dakota forfeited their match against Colorado College’s Cutthroats (Cutties). To some teams, this anticlimactic showing after a long morning of hyping themselves up and talking strategy would have lessened the energy. Instead, the Cutties rallied and asked the referees already slotted for the game to stay and watch them scrimmage against themselves, just for fun.

After the scrimmage, several of the referees remarked to one of the captains, Delaney Kenyon ’23, that the team’s love for each other and the sport reminded them why they are involved in rugby.

“That was very exciting that they recognize that in us and that we represented the spirit of what rugby could be and should be,” she said. “And one of the refs [also] said that it was really fun to watch.”

Throughout the tournament and despite its various setbacks – such as a constant downpour for the entirety of the first day resulting in the cancellation of games to maintain the “integrity of the competition,” having to huddle far too many people in one van for warmth, an opposing team no-showing, and being one player down due to yellow cards for nearly an entire game – the Cutties were having fun playing rugby and being around each other.

One player, Kira Smith ‘25, said the same was true of most other attendees of the tournament.

“Everyone’s there to enjoy the sport and enjoy each other and just work really hard,” she said. “Even when you lose everyone just always seems so happy. At least, at this tournament.”

The general sunny attitude may have been fueled by the uniqueness of the event itself. Since its founding in 2010, the NCR Championships have been the “largest US collegiate rugby event,” and this year’s was the largest yet with over 122 participating teams, eight divisions, 300 games, and more than 20,000 spectators.

“Never in the history of collegiate rugby in America have so many collegiate rugby teams, and in the same place at one time, playing down with rugby which is like, truly, truly insane,” said Kenyon.

Another player, Casey Ferrigno ‘23, said, “it was incredible to be a part of such a huge rugby event.”

The event was also unique because it was the first time the Cutties had attended nationals since pre-COVID-19, despite receiving the same at-large bid last spring as well. This year’s attendance was made possible thanks to the hard work of the club’s leadership. 

Caroline Livaditis ‘23, as club president, organized everything from booking flights to communicating with tournament bureaucracy, renting vans, getting hotel rooms, and more for 15 players and the coach.

Right up until the team landed in Washington D.C., Livaditis said, “I was so, so convinced we were going to end up in Seattle…I was convinced that was going to happen…that, for some reason, we wouldn’t be able to get there, and it would be my fault. But we did.”

Livaditis said she was not the only one feeling stress before the tournament, and not just logistically; “Performance anxiety” was a term thrown around before, during, and after the games.

“I think everyone was feeling that playing on the stage was a big deal. We wanted to win, and it’s interesting because we didn’t, and nothing happened,” said Livaditis. “You know, like we’re still here and fine, and we still had a great experience.”

Part of the experience was being able to play in the Small College Division and be matched against teams with similar funding and student body pools to pull from. Normally, while in-season, the Cutthroats play teams outside of their division with more funding and larger student bodies. The change, Kenyon said, was really nice to see and it was refreshing to play teams “that were in similar positions as us.”

The team played four teams over the course of the two-day tournament and got the chance to watch a few more, including the Women’s Premier League Championship game, where Brown University beat out West Point Military Academy.

The Cutties’ final standing of No.10 in their division represents the highest rank the Colorado College Rugby Football Club has ever achieved on the national stage. More importantly, Kenyon said, the team improved with each game, had fun, and played good rugby.

“If we had placed first, but we placed first playing bad rugby and just being athletic, then I would have been mad, I would have been a little bit pissed,” said Kenyon. “I’d much rather place 10th and play good rugby and work on our skills and learn more as individuals than rely purely on aggression and athleticism alone. And I really think that we embodied that.”

Livaditis feels similarly. They said the team implemented much of what they have been working on in practice and made “huge strides” from the beginning of the season.

“I think a lot of people had sort of impostor syndrome,” she added, “[But] I think we completely deserved to be there. We weren’t the best team there by any means. But we were a contender for a lot of those teams.”

“Throughout the weekend, our phenomenal captains reminded us that we should be stoked to be here and to show that excitement and passion on the field,” said Ferrigno, “Overall, going to nationals was an awesome experience and I am proud of all of us for getting there. I am super grateful to be a part of a community of amazing, kind, strong teammates and friends, and I was further reminded of that this weekend.”

“I think we grew as a team and as a family,” added Smith.

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