When it comes to covering Pac-12 athletics, the Pac-12 Network doesn’t miss much.
The Conference of Champions broadcast network has brought more accurate and insightful coverage of member schools athletics than the average fan can consume.
Expanded coverage and exposure has benefited student-athletes, teams, coaches, the image of university athletics and to repeat…fans.
Like so many others, the new Pac-12 Network “Timelines” series overlooked a significant achievement by a lesser known Washington State University team, women’s rugby.
How do you overlook a program that has produced two national championship squads over the past four years?
The better question might be put to Cougar Nation.
Did you realize WSU fielded a national champion in 2013?
Though I am a rare Coug who knows a little something of the success WSU women’s rugby, that pretty well sums up my knowledge. A little something.
Caught up with the past president of Washington State women’s rugby, Megan Bonnie, about a week ago. Megan proved to be a tremendous ambassador for both WSU and women’s rugby. My exclusive interview with Bonnie was an eye-opener to the squad’s success.
Cougars are familiar with the role of an underdog. The WSU women’s rugby program embraces the challenges of that role, then collectively puts in the work necessary to achieve athletic excellence.
Bonnie has returned home to Yakima after earning her degree in kinesiology and plans to attend grad school with the goal of becoming a physical therapist.
Cougar Pride laces Bonnie’s words when talking rugby.
“We had a very solid team this year. We had a great team the past few years and have been very successful.”
Playing in the Division II Cascade Collegiate Women’s Rugby Conference, WSU marched through the 2013 campaign undefeated.
A closer look at their performance on the field reveals they dominated each and every opponent. “This past year I don’t think one team scored more than 10-points against us,” boasted Bonnie.
“This year solidified that we are a talented program instead of a one-time deal.”
Had Pac-12 Networks included a brief profile of WSU women’s rugby in their “Timelines” piece on the Cougs, it would have highlighted the team’s performance at Nationals.
Washington State’s opening round opponent was Utah Valley University out of Orem, UT. The Cougs prevailed over the Wolverines by a final score of 61-10. Washington State defeated Cal State Northridge in the second round by the exact same score, 61-10.
Advancing to the Final Four, the Cougs first knocked off Buffalo with a shut out, 62-0. WSU then showed why they deserved to play for the national championship by dominating Winona State 60-5.
“At the end of the season, we are in it to win, everybody is passionate about (winning the title). When we get on the field, (we believe) this is our family. We’re willing to do anything for each other.”
Despite the fact women’s rugby has only been played at WSU in the past decade, the program is evolving at an unbelievable pace. Trust me, that isn’t hyperbole being tossed at you.
Here’s how the team has performed on the field recently:
- 2009 – Third Place in Nationals
- 2010 – National Champions
- 2012 – Third Place in Nationals
- 2013 – National Champions.
The current run might be even more impressive had the team placed in 2011. There’s good reason why the program skipped a beat that year. When it came time to make the trip to nationals there wasn’t funding available. That’s right. A lack of funding knocked the Cougs out of a run for the national championship rather than an opponent.
Bonnie suggested the 2011 team would have at least made it to the Final Four. No doubt about it.
Another significant fact Pac-12 Networks might have pointed out is the move for women’s rugby from Division II up to Division I play this coming season.
The foundation for a WSU dynasty is in place.
“There’s love for the sport and love for the school,” reflected Bonnie. “I think we were much closer (as a team) than other schools and we were fortunate to have that.”
Unlike the beginning of last year when the head coach job was up in the air, the Cougs will have Conor Bollinger-Smith returning to lead the squad.
This coming season for WSU women’s rugby holds much promise as well as challenge.
Editor’s Note: Women’s rugby at WSU dates back to the 1980′s proving the point that this writer knows “a little something”. Very little.