Rugby continues to see improvement

Sydney Mohr, Features Editor

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Winona State University’s women’s rugby team, the Black Katts, has continued their season as an undefeated powerhouse.

After the defeat of their highest rival, the University of Minnesota, on Oct. 5, the Black Katts were on the road to Nationals.

Roger Riley, assistant coach for the Black Katts, was unsure about how the game against the Gopher was going to shape up, as they are one of the strongest D-I teams in their conference.

“We weren’t sure how [the team] was going to do this year, as we are moving to a whole new level,” Riley said. “We knew that we would do okay against teams we have played before, but I didn’t think we would do as well as we have been. We have been meeting expectations.”

The Black Katts having a young player basis for their B squad was questionable on how the team would shape up to do for this semester.

As shown though, their hard work has brought them success.

The first time the Katts went against the University of Minnesota was at the All-Minnesota tournament, where they won 43-0. Riley credits this to the U’s lack of preparation time.

“[The U] starts school after Labor Day, and All-Minnesota was that following weekend, so they had two rounds of practices before they went into the tournament,” Riley said.

Despite that being a concern of Minnesota being more prepared this time, the Black Katts managed to overcome and beat the University of Minnesota 22-10. This helped boost the confidence of the team, allowing them to continue their winning streak throughout the rest of the semester.

“The nice change with moving to D-I is that we felt as if teams were forfeiting to us and didn’t want to play us in D-II, and maybe now it’s because they don’t know us in D-I, but no one has forfeited yet. It’s usually when they had to come to us for a home game that they forfeited, but we haven’t had any issues yet.” Riley said.

Since the University of Minnesota battle on the fifth, the Black Katts were supposed to play at University of Wisconsin- Madison, but the meet was cancelled due to rain, so their next game was played at home at Southeast Technical College on Saturday, Oct. 19 against Northern Illinois University, where they won 116-0, making them currently 7-0 within their fall 2019 season.

“We’ve been winning by good scores, but we haven’t been blowing teams out of the water, which is nice. We are being challenged now, which allows us to focus on what we need to work on. We are being challenged and can improve with this,” Riley said.

The Black Katts have one more home meet on Oct. 26 against Iowa State University with a 12 p.m. kickoff. They will then prepare for the Division II National Playoffs, which will happen throughout November with a round of 32 teams starting on Nov. 3 and the Final Four are Dec 4-6.

“We hope to be the highest seed so we can play the initial highest-lowest seed game within Nationals,” Riley said. “We’re preparing for that, but it doesn’t matter so much if we win or lose, so much that we qualify for D-II nationals.”