Feature Story, Student Life

December 12, 2022

The Ohio Wesleyan University women’s team powers through 4 inches of snow to win its second consecutive Ohio Valley Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference championship in 7s rugby. (Photo by Dave Ferguson)

Winner, Winner

Ohio Wesleyan Women’s Rugby Team Earns Back-to-Back Conference Championships

By Cole Hatcher

They began practicing in August – spending Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on the field, often for as long as they had sunlight.

The 19 members of the Ohio Wesleyan University women’s rugby team say they don’t mind playing on the unlighted Intramural Practice Field proclaiming, “we enjoy tackling on grass rather than turf.”

The club sport is one of the most successful on the OWU campus, racking up an impressive record that for fall 2022 included a 14-2 season for the 7s team and a second consecutive Ohio Valley Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference championship. To take the title, the women battled in 4 inches of wet snow in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and defeated both Taylor University and Division I Ohio University.

“Rucks were tough, especially with a white ball, conversion kicks almost impossible,” said forward Sydney McMillin ’25. “Ohio Wesleyan University plowed to the trophy in the championship match.”

In addition to repeating its 2021 championship, the OWU women’s rugby team also boasts:

  • The 7s team qualifying for the national championship in spring 2015.
  • The 15s team reaching the conference final four in fall 2015.
  • The 7s team becoming Challenge Division Champions with a record of 21-0 in fall 2018.

(Rugby 7s games have seven players on the field for 7-minute halves, while 15s games have 15 players on the field for 40-minute halves.)

To ensure they’re always ready to battle, the Ohio Wesleyan women’s rugby players have a favorite game-day ritual.

“Our team does a Samoan War Chant with our hands,” said Shannon Long ’26. “We do this to turn the ‘switch’ on before every game and focus. It was taught to us by Coach Dave (Fetalaiga), a native Samoan who plays for the Scioto Valley rugby club located in Columbus. Our captain Hailey (MacGregor) usually leads it, and it helps to get everyone on the same level, pumped and excited for the game.”

To follow the team’s seasons and successes, visit the Ohio Wesleyan Club Rugby Facebook page. OWU students interested in joining the team next semester are invited to reach out to Mylah Morris ’24 at mrmorris@owu.edu

Members of the fall women’s rugby team and their positions are:

  • Rin Anderson ’26, forward
  • Jessie Bontatibus ’22, forward and captain
  • Mo Cartnal ’24, forward
  • Madison Cofer ’25, centre
  • Christie Geist ’25, forward
  • Shannon Lang ’26, winger
  • Grace Luxon ’26, centre
  • Hailey MacGregor ’24, flyhalf and captain
  • Ava Mathys ’26, forward
  • El Mayle ’24, hooker
  • Sydney McMillin ’25, forward
  • Kaylee Moore ’23, forward
  • Mylah Morris ’24, scrumhalf and captain
  • Bolu Ogunye ’23, forward
  • Etta Pierce ’26, scrumhalf
  • Emma Pieterse ’26, winger
  • Julia Rocha ’26, forward
  • Kayla Saikaly ’25, winger
  • Emma Wyse-Briggs ’26, forward

Since 2021, the team has been coached by Philip Payne, a former Ohio State women’s Division I rugby coach who led OSU to finish second in the nation in rugby 7s as well as place within the Top 8 teams in the United States for eight years in a row. The team’s assistant coaches are Fetalaiga and Brittany Latham.

In addition to women’s rugby, current or recent Ohio Wesleyan club sports include cheerleading, soccer, cricket, equestrian team, indoor hockey, medieval combat, men’s Ultimate Frisbee, ski & snowboarding, and women’s Ultimate Frisbee. 

Learn more about OWU club sports at owu.edu/ClubSports