Term in Review: women’s and men’s cross country, volleyball and rugby find prosperity in 22F
Fall 2022 brought growth, success and a sense of unity for women and men’s cross country, volleyball and rugby as each athlete worked to be part of something larger than themselves.
Courtesy of Allie Amerson
After nearly three years of COVID-19 restrictions, fall sports teams have returned back to normal with pre-COVID-19 traditions reinstated. Among other teams, women’s and men’s cross country, volleyball and rugby all had successful fall seasons this year.
Women’s Rugby had high expectations going into the season as the reigning national champions. With a 7-0 record and a current National Intercollegiate Rugby Association #1 ranking, the team has proved they have the same dominance from last season. The team has had two shutouts, first 79-0 on the road against Mount St. Mary’s University then 85-0 at home against Brown University. The team will be playing the NIRA semifinal game against Quinnipiac University at Brophy Field this Saturday.
Women’s volleyball went 16-6 overall and 8-4 in conference play — a significant improvement over last year's 15-8 overall and 7-7 Ivy League record. The team has won the last six out of seven games against Ivy League opponents as they prepare for the Ivy League tournament on Nov. 18 and 19.
Men’s cross country placed fourth with 114 points in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship on Oct. 28, marking an improvement over last year’s fifth place finish. Notably, the team also won the Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational home meet on Sept. 10 against Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maine.
Despite their success, rugby and men’s cross country also faced significant challenges. Both teams found silver linings within their hardships.
“During the mid-season we were down quite a few girls because of injury,” rugby player Allie Amerson ’25 said. “I think that gave non-starters a chance to show their true colors as they were able to step up for the team.”
Notably, men’s cross country started preseason with the announcement that head coach Justin Wood had stepped down from his role. Women’s cross country head coach Kendra Foley filled in as interim head coach.
“We’ve had upperclassmen really step up and our captains have done a really good job of keeping us organized and motivated,” cross country team member Albert Velikonja ’25 said. “I think we've raced as well as we could have given the circumstances.”
Teams noted different moments in the season for the biggest success. Velikonja pointed to the Paul Short Invitational, where the men’s cross country team placed 10th and several runners ran under 24 minutes in the 8 km race, while volleyball player Karen Murphy ’24 featured her team’s growth and improvement.
“We have definitely had a stronger season than last year,” Murphy said. “Last year we lost twice to Harvard [University], and this year we won both games against Harvard, which helped us enter the Ivy League tournament in third place.”
In terms of the reasoning behind success, the teams had different strategies. Amerson pointed to the versatility and selflessness of the rugby team.
“We adjust under whatever circumstances that have changed from the week prior,” Amerson said. “Our team culture caters to success, and we're playing for the people alongside us, not for ourselves, which creates a winning team.”
Velikonja explained that most cross country runners are three sport athletes, running cross country in the fall, indoor track and field in the winter, and outdoor track and field in the spring. Always being in season, Velikonja said, contributes to success.
“Because we are always in season, we can always work for redemption if we have a bad season or continue onto a new opportunity if we have success,” Velikonja said. “We are always engaged and never complacent because always being in season keeps you honest.”
Cross country, volleyball and rugby have all had remarkable seasons, but the athletes pointed to effort and improvement as the most important part of the teams.
“The results on paper haven’t been perfect,” Velikonja said, “but as a team we’ve definitely improved a lot and that’s really all you can ask for.”