Their list of goals wasn’t long. The road to achieve their loftiest goal was.
But after losing out on its league’s automatic bid March 30, St. Bonaventure’s women’s rugby 7s team played so well the next two weekends that it earned an at-large bid to the National Small College Rugby Organization Women’s National 7s Championships this Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28, at Founders Field in Pittsburgh.
The Bonnies are in Pool C with Simpson College, Middlebury College and Lee University. All will play each other Saturday before being reseeded in the afternoon for a match against a team from Pool B.
Games will be played on two fields concurrently. Click here for the full schedule.
All games on Field 1 will be live-streamed on the NSCRO Women’s YouTube Channel. The Bonnies play Simpson on Field 1 at 2 p.m.
Every tournament team will then play two games Sunday morning, with the title match set for noon.
“We’re so excited to represent the school on the national level. This is our first trip to 7s nationals,” said Coach Clarence Picard.
In fall 15s under former coach Dr. Tracy Schrems, the Bonnies went to the NSCRO national final four in 2011 and the NSCRO regional finals in 2014.
Three weeks ago, the Bonnies lost to eventual champ University of Rochester in the semifinals of the Upstate New York Collegiate Rugby Conference 7s Tournament, squandering a chance to win the automatic bid to the NSCRO Nationals.
But a thrilling win over Colgate in the St. Bonaventure 7s Tournament April 6 and a title game loss to NCAA Div. I West Chester University in the Battle for the Borders 7s April 15 in Niagara Falls were enough to convince NSRCO officials to extend an at-large bid to the Bonnies.
“Losing to Rochester (March 30) was a humbling experience, but we immediately bounced back and have played our best rugby the past two weekends,” Picard said.
Not that it was easy.
In the Bonaventure 7s championship match, the Bonnies saw Colgate climb out of a 17-0 hole before Olivia Boyd scored a try on the game’s final play for a 22-20 victory. A week later, in the opening match at Battle for the Borders, Kelly DeGrood scored every point in a 14-10 win over Buffalo State, including the winning try as time expired.
At a captains’ meeting to begin the spring 7s season, Picard said the players laid out five aspirational values — accountability, family, hard work, positivity and respect — and only two goals: emphasize communication on and off the field, and qualify for 7s nationals.
“The past three months, we’ve been in the gym and on the practice field, striving through the ups and downs to make it this far,” Picard said. “The addition of strength coach Kelly Unverdorben has also helped change our team mindset.”
Unverdorben has led the Portville Central girls volleyball team to four state titles in the last five years.
The Bonnies have been led in scoring this spring by DeGrood (13 tries and 24 conversions), Emily Sion (12 tries), Rachel Pelsang (6 tries) and Ziah Davidson (5 tries).
One of the captains, Diana DeVito, was injured in the offseason, but Picard said she’s “been a valuable leader off the field.”
Picard hopes his club can send seniors Pelsang and Erin Brockenton, who scored her first career try at Battle of the Borders, “out on a high note” at the NSCRO Nationals.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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