After nearly 3 years, BYU women’s rugby breaks through for ‘repeatable’ national title

BYU players celebrate a try against Central Washington during a game, Oct. 16, 2021 in Provo. The Cougars captured a second straight CRAA Division I spring championship on Saturday with an 80-7 victory over Virginia Tech in Houston. (Rebeca Fuentes, Photo BYU)

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PROVO — For three years, Tom Waqa’s club had to wait for a chance to defend their title.

Two years ago, the top-ranked BYU women’s rugby team qualified for the 2019 CRAA Division I Spring Championship in a world that looks a lot different than the one they live in now.

The College Rugby Association of America, which operates college rugby in partnership with USA Rugby, has canceled the 2020 championships following the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, the Cougars were still unable to compete due to virus restrictions.

Finally given their chance to compete, BYU made short work of the competition — including in Saturday’s Finals, when the Cougars won 80-7 over Virginia Tech in the Spring Championship game. of Division I at AVEVA Stadium in Houston.

“They played for each other. There were seven seniors who were last paying. They wanted to come out and leave everything on the court today,” BYU coach Tom Waqa told KSL.com. “It’s been a long season, since the fall and trying to do a season together. It’s exhausting. But you can tell they wanted to keep going.

“No one gave up, and I’m really proud of them for holding on, playing for each other and finishing the job in style.”

Freshman Kambria Hartrick scored two tries to secure a 49-0 first-half start for BYU, whose lead grew to 68-0 en route to the program’s 20th national title and second since he left DI Elite after the 2018 season.

If the Cougars were nervous before the game, they weren’t.

“Kambria carried the ball and broke a lot of tackles on the way to the line,” Waqa said of his first-year prop who was named League Game MVP. “Before the game she was a bit nervous; it was the first title for many of these women. They had to calm their nerves. But after the first 10 minutes they got to work.

“I think Kambria’s try was the moment. When she scored under the post, it was special. It just defined the season for us.”

Virginia Tech’s Kathryn Santus hit a turnover and split the amounts to put the Hokies on the board, 68-7 midway through the second half. But opener Matalasi Morisette scored on a 70th-minute penalty restart to help the Cougars take a 73-7 lead to get to the finish.

The Cougars cruised through the Division I tournament, the second tier of women’s college rugby under D1 Elite, beating Washington 80-3 in the quarterfinals before a 67-3 rout of the Grand Canyon in the semifinals.

Lindenwood won their fourth straight title in the D1 Elite Final at Houston Rugby Weekend, and Claremont College won the Division II Spring title. Army beat Saint Mary’s 20-8 in the men’s D1A final later on Saturday.

With the win, BYU finished 11-0 in the spring and hasn’t lost since back-to-back losses to Lindenwood and Life University in October.

“There’s a lot of turnover with this program at BYU,” Waqa said. “But you build, and on game day you have confidence that the girls will do their best. That’s what they did today.”

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Sean Walker graduated from Syracuse University and returned to his home country to work for KSL.com covering BYU, prep sports and anything his editors throw at him. When he’s not covering a game, he’s usually listening to Broadway soundtracks or hiking with his dog.

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