Black Katts begin search for new head, assistant coaches

Black Katts begin search for new head, assistant coaches

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

The Black Katts, Winona State University’s women’s club rugby team, has been crushing records throughout the past 15 years it has been at Winona State.

Not only have they placed in the top-four of Nationals the past 11 consecutive years, but have also scored the national title two years ago and placed second last year.

However, after the fall 2019 season, assistant coach Roger Riley and head coach Josh Krzewinski will be stepping down from their roles and leaving the Black Katts on the hunt for a new coach.

Riley, a seasoned pro when it comes to rugby coaching, decided after 24 years that it was time to take some time for himself.

“For 24 years, I’d go to practice three times per week after work, about 24 weeks of the year, every Saturday and some Sundays, 10-15 fundraisers per year, countless meetings and telephone conferences, “Riley said. “It is now time to have evenings and weekends be free for me.”

He did state that he tried to quit coaching before, but TV was just “too boring” for him.

Krzewinski and Riley both agreed on one thing for their retirement and that was being a club sport in the Minnesota State University system was becoming much too difficult.

Between finding space to practice, the cost of running the club and funding, it is becoming very difficult to keep the sport alive at Winona State.

Riley praised Minnesota South Technical College for working so well with the rugby team the past 14 years, but unfortunately that spot will soon be taken over by Winona State’s varsity baseball team, and the rugby team will lose their spot to play, along with financial struggles for the team.

“The costs keep going up, but the amount we receive is going down,” Riley said. “To get to the National Final Four, it costs about $25,000-$27,000 in a cheap year. If the playoffs are on the west coast, it costs in $30,000+. This year we receive $5250 from Student Senate so we have to spend a lot of time fundraising or having the players pay for it.”

President Diana Tapia Alvarado and veteran player Abigail Andler noted though, that despite this season having a tough start, they were excited to get back.

“We’re such a close-knit team. We do everything together. We do homework, go out to eat, get coffee, and are just always hanging out with each other. It feels like a true family,” Andler said.

The difficulty with this season is that the Black Katts are starting off with a young team, which means not as much experience and meshing from the students.

“It’s like we’re starting from level one,” Tapia Alvarado said. “Most of the girls coming in have never played before, and it’s hard for us to recruit even though we are such a successful team.”

Their success was shown this past weekend at the All Minnesota tournament, taking two wins.

Despite their reigning success though as a DI team, they have been struggling to find a coach for the spring season.

“We’ve posted on many different Minnesota rugby coaching forums and groups, but no one really seems to be interested,” Andler said. “We’re a small school, so our name is not that well known, even with our success rate.”

Riley noted that there has been some interest from international coaches, but it has been too difficult to accommodate.

“There have been several inquiries from overseas but, they all want visa assistance, an airfare, accommodations, car and a job. We have no money for any of that,” Riley said. “We have a couple of more local prospects that look very promising.”

The Black Katts will play again on Saturday, Sept. 14 at University of Northern Iowa with kickoff at 11 a.m., with a hope of continuing their season winning streak.