Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Off the Field: Every body is a Rugby Body

Hayley Niewohner
Using strength from their legs and core, three WSU Black Katts women rugby players push a scrum sled during practice.

You may have seen their exuberance and been entranced by their spirit at club fairs, meandering over to listen to their enthusiasm without the intention to join, but if there is a club that might be worth a try, it is the Winona State University Women’s Rugby Club, the Black Katts.

The club was formed by a clutch of ladies who began as groupies for the men’s team but eventually moved to start their own without a coach or plans for their future. Nearly 31 years later, the club continues to grow.

Now, the club is led by fifth-year Nayelia Cubias, who knew nothing about Rugby originally.

“I was just a very aggressive soccer player in high school,” Cubias said. “But I tried it and took it day by day with my college best friend and we ended up winning nationals my freshman year. It really showed me that I could do it.”

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Since her start as a rugby player, Cubias has noted the many opportunities she has had for personal growth. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she found that the team raised her self-confidence and allowed her to grow past previous body image issues.

Katana Provost, a second-year acting as the social media marketer on the board alongside Cubias has had similar experiences with the team.

“In high school, I went down a bad path, I was hanging out with the wrong people,” Provost said. “I needed a different outlet other than what I was doing, and I decided to try out rugby.”

Provost fell in love with the sport during her final year of high school and moving into college, the Black Katts were one of the selling points of Winona State.

Since she joined, Provost has revolved every aspect of her life around what happens with rugby. It has taken its place in her heart alongside the people she has met and the experiences she has gained from the club.

The sport itself is really made for everyone. With fifteen quite different positions to choose from, there is no preferred body type or experience necessary to join.

“The quote I always hear is that every body is a rugby body,” Provost said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a runner your whole life or you did volleyball, or even if you’ve never done a sport, if you just go at it, you can pick it up.”

Cubias also emphasizes how the rugby community expands through several generations, and certainly far beyond just Winona State.

Several Winona State alumni who played throughout their academic career have made secondary careers out of the sport, some even trying out for national teams. Even those who are well into their fifties still partake in their pastimes simply because the game and the teams they were once a part of have impacted them so deeply.

The camaraderie of the sport also extends outside of an individual’s team, so much so that rival schools often become cherished companions.

“We go out, we play a game and then afterwards we sit down with them, we hang out and we share a meal with them,” Provost said. “We are friends with the people we are literally tackling on the field. It is a game of insane amounts of respect.”

The Black Katts themselves are a group of girls with unique personalities. Rather than teammates, the club simply considers themselves a big family who support each other academically and personally.

From cry sessions to dance parties, the group of girls share some of their most exciting achievements with one another.

“Besides Winona, rugby is the main reason I am here,” Cubias said. “I honestly don’t know who I would be to this day if it hadn’t been for my rugby team.”

Practices typically take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from five to seven at Minnesota State College Southeast, while games occur on the weekends. Accessibility is no problem, as the team often rides together to their events and expensive equipment is not necessary.

Overall, the Black Katts are an extremely accepting group of young women who are always looking to recruit new people into their community and introduce them to a recent activity that they might just come to love as much as the club does.

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About the Contributors
Kailey Doeseckle
Kailey Doeseckle, Sports Editor

Kailey Doeseckle (she/her/hers) is the Sports Editor for the Winonan as of fall 2023. Doeseckle is currently in her third year at Winona State University, majoring in Criminal Justice: Corrections and Justice Services with a minor in Psychology.

In addition to working for the Winonan, Doeseckle is also a part of the Wenonah Players club. She participates in their theatre productions as both an actress and a crew member.

Outside of university, Doeseckle loves to spend time with her roommates binge-watching their favorite shows, dancing to music, and singing quite off-key to musicals.  She also enjoys watching movies, creative writing, and board games. Doeseckle also loves meaningless drives to blast all her favorite songs, and spending lots of time outside in fall weather.

Hayley Niewohner
Hayley Niewohner, Sports Photographer
Hayley Niewohner (She/her/hers) is a Sports Photographer for the Winonan and started in the fall of 2023. Niewohner is a first year at Winona State University majoring in Nursing. This is Niewohner's first year in anything for publication, but she has many years of experience taking pictures during sporting events in high school.
In addition to working for the Winonan, Niewohner is a Desk Assistant in Sheehan hall.
Outside of the Winonan, Niewohner loves spending time with friends outdoors, lifting in the gym, trying out local coffee shops, going to concerts, and watching sporting events. She also enjoys cooking, making chocolate, and doodling.

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