CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton Women's Rugby team enters their third season of competition in 2018. Head Coach Frank Graziano has been at the helm of the program since its inception, following a long and successful tenure at Eastern Illinois.
The goals in previous seasons included filling out a roster of quality athletes, generating support and awareness for the sport on campus, teaching the game, and working on improving the fundamentals of the players. Although much of the rosters have consisted of experienced athletes in years past, most had never been acclimated to the sport of rugby until Coach Graziano's tutelage. This year, after weeks of training and a squad with plenty of experience, the team will try for their first-ever program victory, an accomplishment worthy of the dedication and commitment of the entire program over the past two years.
Senior Savanah Graves will lead the fleet of returning players to the roster in 2018. Last season, she appeared in all eight games for the Spartans, and was named National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) First-Team All-American and earned team MVP Honors. Graves recorded a team-high 78 tackles, with 17 assisted tackles. She also converted four tries and had two assists.
Castleton will look to get on the winning track very early in the season when they open on the road at LIU-Post on Sunday. Last season, Castleton held a lead until the final point of the game, where a Pioneer broke loose to knot the score at 10 and lead to a draw.
The slate of four home contests will commence on Saturday, Sept. 8 when the Spartans will host the University of New England, the defending NIRA Tier 2 Champions. Colby-Swayer will come to town nine days later, amidst its first season of varsity rugby.
Sophomore Julia May brings a year of experience to the group in 2018. The West Rutland, Vt. Native recorded 65 tackles a year ago, while scoring one try, one assist, and a pair of conversions.
The Spartans will rely on another returner, junior Autumn LaPlant, for scoring throughout the season. In 2017, she had three tries with an assist. Additionally, Coach Graziano will give the chance to a slate of newcomers to impact the team.
Following four consecutive road games and a home date with Sacred Heart on Oct. 21, the regular season will end as it started, with a match against the familiar foes from LIU Post on Oct. 28 at home.