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Howard Women’s Rugby has made a huge splash this year – making their way to the CRAA D2  Women’s Spring Championships in only the second year of the program’s existence! The “Herd”, which refers to both the men’s and women’s rugby programs at Howard, has placed an early stamp on collegiate rugby in America. While early success can be mislabeled as “lucky”, the Herd’s intentions and approach to this season was anything but happenstance.

Howard Rugby seems to have an intrinsic sense of what makes rugby so great – culture and community. By striving to be their best on and off the field, they instill pride in each other and inspire all those who are fortunate to watch. By getting those values right, it seems that on pitch success comes naturally. I had the pleasure of chatting with Coach Katherine Aversano about the Herd and how they’re feeling about the big match this weekend. Be sure to check out the D2 Women’s Spring Championship on May 7th LIVE on The Rugby Network. 

What do you attribute to your team’s huge success this year? 

We have defined goals, good planning, and a lot of athletes who have fallen in love with this game. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but I think we are better and stronger for the ups and downs since our inception in Fall 2021.

Also, I don’t take for granted that the team trusts my vision and experience to know what they are capable of becoming. But I also have trust that they are the ones on the field and have the knowledge to adjust and read what is in front of them. 

Looking ahead to Houston, how is the team feeling? 

We feel prepared. This team may only be 2 years old, but we have immense pride in the way we play and that we are showcasing HBCU rugby, for all that it can be, to the community. 

We know our game and if we stay focused, this will be a very challenging and exciting Championship between us and the Claremont Foxes. In the East Final, Appalachian State tested our abilities and made us dig deep. We expect nothing less from Claremont. HUWRC wants to make HBCUs, all teams in the East, and especially the D.C. Metro area rugby community proud.

How will this year’s playoff run impact not only future Howard rugby players, but women’s rugby in general? 

I have a broad view of what U.S. rugby can look like: a true mix between northern hemisphere discipline and southern hemisphere flow. Howard Women+ play that way, but with added intensity that is the edge we need in the U.S. 

Our ability to succeed through the playoffs shows that our style is successful and exciting. And the more eyes that are on Howard, the more we show that Black rugby is here, and young girls and boys know they are welcome in the rugby community. That is the biggest goal we focus on. 

I aim for Howard’s success to be a jumping off point for more HBCUs to support rugby, especially women’s rugby. Only 2.7% of High School athletes go on to play NCAA sports. That drop-off is where we should be growing rugby in leaps and bounds. And we need to look to Black communities because we truly can’t showcase American Rugby without showcasing all of America playing rugby. 

We may have big ideas, but at HUWRC we don’t do things small: we bring big rugby joy, big passion, and we’re building a big community. 

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