WARSAW – Certainly when one thinks of historical athletic success at Warsaw Community High School, a few things immediately come to mind. One of those likely isn’t girls rugby, but could quickly get a footing with some of the great programs to come out of Tiger Town.
Northern Indiana isn’t a locale where people would associate rugby as part of the fabric of the sport, yet two of the connecting sports in football and soccer certainly could be part of that conversation. The sport, which isn’t a sanctioned part of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s 21 sports, still has seen a dramatic increase in total numbers of participants per Warsaw club coach Trevor Cracknell.
“Our success over the past few years has helped our numbers,” Cracknell said. “We’ve gone to a state finals with just 15 girls, which is difficult to do. Getting the word out has been difficult even though rugby is the fastest-growing team sport in the country. Title IX mandates in the colleges has also helped because they are picking up rugby, which means they are giving out more scholarships. We’ve been lucky to have seen those help us.”
Cracknell has been with the Warsaw rugby program since its inception in 2003, which despite the lack of state and school affiliation, has pulled in quality athletes from WCHS as well as surrounding schools to the club. The girls rugby team is labeled as ‘Warsaw’ but has and has had players from Whitko, Triton, Plymouth, Wawasee, Jimtown and so on. In that time, Warsaw has built a reputation, and has the hardware to prove it.
The Warsaw girls rugby team won a state championship in 2005 and stood tall in 2016 in its second triumph of the Hoosier state. Warsaw also took home state runner-up status in 2013 and 2014. In its run in 2016, the team finished seventh at Nationals in Missouri and won the Carolina Rugbyfest for the second straight season. This season has been much of the same, as the Warsaw club finished second at the DC Fury in Washington D.C. and is ranked No. 21 in the nation.
“Even in my first game, I didn’t know all the rules, but my teammates just told me to follow them and slowly I picked up the game,” said junior Katiana Rodriguez. “It’s still a complicated game, and some of the rules I’m still trying to figure out, but the game is really fun and I’ve picked up most of it.”
The team has seen its stars begin to get recognized as well. Four of its players, most recently 2017 senior Abby Overmeyer, was given a rugby scholarship to continue playing at highly-regarded Davenport University. Hannah Garcia (2016), Tressa Keim (2015) and Allison Walls (2013) also are former clubbers who signed on to continue playing at the next level.
Overmeyer, who was a track and soccer standout at Whitko High School, feels she really found her niche on the pitch with the club.
“This game makes me work a lot harder, knowing I have to go into college playing against a lot of very talented players,” Overmeyer said. “I’m working on my agility, my tackling and keeping my head into the game. I think the most exciting part about the game is tackling. Not a lot of sports can say they can do that, especially in girls sports, and I like that part of the game.”
Added Abby’s mother, Angela Keener, of her daughter’s involvement, “It was a shock. Everyone knew she was fast from track and soccer, but she really stood out and loves it. We have our other daughter (Sydney) playing, too. For me, watching how the girls have taken to it, how it builds their self esteem, and this is the one thing Abby just loves. The girls are very close, they build each other up. It’s not a one-person sport, this is a team-building sport, which we really like.”
Warsaw most recently played Brownsburg on its home pitch behind Calvary Tabernacle this past Sunday. The Warsaw club ran roughshod over the Bulldogs in a 78-0 whitewash, it’s junior squad also came out victorious 15-5. The club is 3-0 on the season. It’s primary rival, Penn, gives the northern half of the state two of the premier clubs, as well as outfits from Indianapolis Arsenal Tech and Indianapolis North Central. Penn is in the Northern Division, the two Indy schools in the Southern Division. In total, there are 11 Indiana clubs involved.
“Our biggest area competition is Penn, which we always see after we play in the Midwest tournament,” Cracknell said. “North Central and Arsenal Tech are top notch from Indianapolis. Our biggest goal is to be very successful against the Indiana teams, which certainly gives us a leg up for the tournaments. That helps us when we travel out of state.”
For more on the Warsaw girls rugby club, visit rugbyindiana.com and find them in the high school drop bar.