The Sacred Heart University women’s rugby team is off to a winning start in 2022 after defeating the Princeton Tigers 53-21 on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Sophomore Alyssa Cunningham had two tries and went 7-8 in kicks, and senior Emily Egan added another try as the Pioneers transitioned seamlessly from preseason to regular season in what was both their season and home opening game.
“What I can say is–what we did in preseason showed in the game on Saturday,” said Head Coach Michelle Reed. “I feel like this year [the players]are coming in much more motivated and playing with intention, and you can see that both offensively and defensively with the speed they played at.”
For Cunningham, her performance was par for the course, as she was just a freshman when she led the Pioneers in tries and conversions in 2021.
“I’d say my success is definitely because of the coaches and my teammates,” Cunningham said. “It’s them pushing me to another level and the coaches constantly pushing me to try things that I haven’t tried in the past on the field that has led to my success.”
Coach Reed said that they recruited Cunningham for about two years as they attempted to bring her skillset to the Park Ave. Field.
“Aly is very transparent, she asks questions, and she’s prepared,” Reed said. “As a person she just is someone that leads not only with rugby IQ but the way she approaches people.”
In her fourth season as a Pioneer, Senior Emily Egan and other upperclassmen are part of a group of players on the team tasked with showing the ropes to the nine first-year players that Sacred Heart has welcomed in this season.
“We want to welcome them as much as possible and try and make their transition from high school to college as easy as possible because we know it can be difficult for some of them,” Egan said. “We count on them on the field so I want them to be able to realize that they can lean on upperclassmen as well.”
A walk-on as a freshman, Egan knows what it takes both mentally and physically to become a good college player.
“What Egan has done in the last three years is she has learned a new sport with desire and passion, and then honed in on what she’s good at,” Reed said.
Sacred Heart played to a 24-24 draw in Providence, R.I., against Brown University on Saturday, Sept. 10, and return home to the Park Ave. Field on Saturday, Sept. 17, where they will face off against Dartmouth College.
“I want people to come out and watch games and experience what rugby is,” Cunningham said. “It’s different than a lot of sports you’re used to, and it’s something you don’t get with a lot of different sports, so I definitely encourage people to come out and watch!”
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.