Black Katts announce move to DI Midwest League


Archived Photo

Left to right: Caitlyn Deetz, Diana Alvarado, and Annika Culver chase down and get ready to tackle a player from La Crosse at a match on Saturday, April 21 at Southeast Technical College, the Black Katts won 67-21.

Mitchell Breuer, Sports Editor

The Winona State University women’s rugby team is moving up.

After winning the ACRA National Championship in 2013, and the DII National Fall Championship in 2017, the club has announced plans to move from the DII Minnesota League, to the DI Midwest League in 2019.

“I think it’s a good move,” forwards captain Gabriella Calametti said. “I think it will definitely make us a better team. Skill level wise, to be able to play against teams who are higher level and it will definitely help us in playoffs be better prepared for teams that are at our level as well. We just don’t have the competition right now in our current league. I’m excited about it, I think it will be good to improve individual and team skills and get people more involved in rugby and a little bit more passionate about it and hopefully prepare some of the players for future playing after college.”

Media executive for the team, Summer Downs, described to The Winonan the feeling of when she, along with other officers, found out about the news.

“I just remember we were at practice,” Downs said. “The officers had already been talking about it, but we wanted to keep it on the down low just because we’ve been rejected before, so didn’t want to get our hopes up or have the news accidentally leak out and have it backfire on us. So, we were kind of talking about it behind the scenes, and we were like, ‘Let’s go for it.’ We had already been forfeited against a couple times, so it can be really frustrating. And there’s nothing bad against other teams. Just like we put a lot of work in during the week, and we want to see what we can do on the weekends.”

According to head coach, Joshua Krzewinski, the decision to transfer has been one the team has wanted to make for some time.

“Two times in the last three years we inquired about moving up. Both times we were denied,” Krzewinski said.  “So, we just continued with working toward our goals.  We continued asking what else can we do, because year after year, we continue to have lopsided scores along with success at national final four. It has become harder to find competition within our league that prepares us for postseason, and with the amount of forfeits we’ve encountered, it was time to pursue another option.”

Forfeits are a problem that Winona has had to deal with a lot this year, with three of their matchups this season being decided that way.

“This season has just been a little disappointing, we’re not getting as much playing time as we want for the girls and we’re not getting to work on things that we need to work on for playoffs and like every other sport, playing time. Playing games is the best way to learn and improve,” Calametti said. “It’s really hard to improve our game when we can’t play games. So that’s really been a challenge I’m excited to hopefully not have that next year. Like I said before, really better ourselves as a team and as players. So, I think that will be really, really good for us.”

Come the fall of 2019, the team will take on the likes of the University of Minnesota, the University of Iowa and Iowa State. Knowing this, Calametti and her teammates realize that they will need to keep up the work ethic that earned them to move up in the first place.

“I think that our mindset will have to stay very humble,” Calametti said. “It’s a big move up but we still have a lot to work on. We’re not a perfect team by any means, I think keeping a head space of we’re not always going to be national champions, we can’t go into every game thinking we’re going to win. I think playing teams who are more like us will help keep us humble, but we also need to do that ourselves. I think it’s all a mental thing. Rugby’s a big mental game so it’s all mindset.”

Coach Krzewinski also knows that it will be tough to keep pace with their winning history.

“Having the success we have had is two-fold. Exciting on one hand but extremely hard to sustain the run we are on. Everyone wants to take the No. 1 down, so we challenge our players to be fit, work hard every day, learn at every practice and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. But most importantly, enjoy the opportunity,” Krzewinski said. “To maintain the success is a tough thing to do. We know what has worked – being fit and having the ability to perform fundamentals very well and at full speed. From there we have to implement those things into our patterns of play, but also be creative in trying new ideas. We as coaches are always looking at games to find things we can change, fix, and improve upon. The key is not becoming complacent.”

With the team being a part of Winona State’s sport club program, it relies on students volunteering to join the team, even if they have no experience. With this move, the team believes that it could be an extra incentive to bring more people in.

“I think that it makes it even more exciting,” Downs said. “I had never played before college. I didn’t start until I came to college, and actually reached out before coming to Winona State and just after seeing their posts on Facebook and their website and seeing how successful they were, it was really exciting. I remember it being kind of intimidating at first because I had never been a part of something so successful before. But they definitely make it easy for you to get into it and make a lot of strong connections.”

Next season is still off in the distance, but the team is staying focused on their remaining games in 2018, as they look to capture another championship.

Nicole Girgen
Eight members of each team come together to form a scrum at a match against La Crosse last spring, the players fight for control of the ball by kicking it towards their respective sides. The Black Katts will be moving from Division two to Division one this year.
Nicole Girgen
Players on the Winona State Women’s Rugby team go in to tackle a player from La Crosse at a match last spring, the Black Katts are moving from Division one to Division two this year.



Nicole Girgen Senior An Tran hands off the ball after a good play against La Crosse at Southeast Technical College last spring where the Black Katts won 67-21.
Nicole Girgen
Players on the Winona State Women’s Rugby team go in to tackle a player from La Crosse at a match last spring, the Black Katts are moving from Division one to Division two this year.