Hard to believe, but the Wisconsin Women’s Rugby team will be celebrating 40 years as a club this weekend during an alumni celebration. One of the nation’s oldest teams, the Wisconsin Women were founded in 1975 in Madison, Wis., with local women from the city and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In those four decades, the team has seen much success both on and off the pitch. Wisconsin was one of the Midwest’s top teams throughout the 1970s and 1980s, before growing into a team regularly seen at nationals in the 1990s and early 2000s. Wisconsin has also been well represented by alumni in the Midwest and National all-star pools, including placing three teammates – Shari Dahlberg, Cynthia Gehrke, and Phaidra Knight – on the 2002 USA Women’s World Cup team. More recently, Wisconsin counts two teammates in the national player pools as Grace Hovde and Melissa Polheber are regularly invited to elite camps.
The team has also transitioned successfully as women’s rugby has grown and expanded competitively in the United States. Once competing as a single team, the club grew into both the current Division 2 senior women’s club and the Division 1 collegiate team, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Women. The UW Women have thrived on the collegiate scene as one of the largest and most competitive clubs in the state, now competing in a Midwest league against other Division 1 programs.
For the senior women’s club, 2015 has been especially memorable as the team earned the club’s first USA Rugby National Championship this past June and continues to be a dominant force in the Midwest. The senior club’s current roster also speaks volumes of the young rugby talent in Wisconsin, as nearly every women’s collegiate club is represented.
The two Madison women’s teams will host a joint alumni celebration this weekend including alumni festivities at the Wisconsin Rugby Sports Complex in Cottage Grove, Wis., on Saturday. The UW Women will play alumni from both clubs at 11:30 a.m., followed by a competitive match between the Wisconsin Women and the Chicago Women (Division 1) at 1:00 p.m.