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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Building a sisterhood: Wichita rugby brings experienced, inexperienced players together

What started as a group of rugby fans teaching themselves to play has evolved into the competitive women’s rugby team, the Wichita Valkyries.

The Wichita Women’s Rugby Football Club was founded in 1974 by Sabrina Perez and other rugby enthusiasts who wanted to take their turn on the field. 

As a member of the Mid-America Rugby Football Union, Wichita Rugby is committed to generating sports involvement in Wichita and competing with other teams in the region. 

After a hiatus, the team re-established itself in 2015 as “The Valkyries” and is recruiting new players. The Valkyries welcome athletes of all skill levels. 

Gillian Stuart, team captain, played rugby for the first time when she joined the Valkyries in 2019. 

Stuart said it’s best to learn rugby by playing the game, and over time, it gets easier.

“As long as you’re open to trying, as long as you are open to showing up, we will teach you how to play rugby,” Stuart said. “Not only do we want to build rugby, but we’re gonna build friendships.” 

Jenna DeRoo, president of the women’s club, also joined the team in 2019 without prior rugby experience.

“I didn’t know a single thing about rugby, but we all have to start somewhere,” DeRoo said, “So I just took a chance, I showed up to a practice and (I’ve) been going ever since.”

In 80 minutes of gameplay across a 100-meter field, players fight for possession, lead attacks and defend their territory. Unlike American football, gameplay does not stop when players get tackled. 

Going into his second year as coach, Garth Simmons said the 15 positions on the team cater to all sizes and levels of speed.

“If you come watch a rugby match, the one thing that stands out is it’s pretty much continual action,” Simmons said.

DeRoo and Stuart agree that building friendships and sisterhood with other players motivates them to keep playing. 

“I am so thankful for the bonds that I’ve made, and I feel like (if) people just give it a chance, they fall in love with it,” Stuart said.

DeRoo said that having the opportunity for athletes to play beyond high school and outside of college is beneficial.

“It’s a very positive outlet for people,” she said. “It brings people from all different backgrounds together.” 

The Valkyries aim to grow their numbers this season by recruiting new players to join the team.

“I know I can’t play forever,” DeRoo said, “So, my goal is just if for whatever reason I have to leave rugby one day or just the team, I want it to continue. I want to leave it better than I found it.”

The team’s fall season runs from September to November. DeRoo said the team has a full schedule. After a break in the winter, the spring season runs from February through May.

Games and tournaments are played in Wichita, Omaha, Kansas City, Springfield, Tulsa, Little Rock, and Dallas.

The Valkyries will play their first match on Sept.16 in Tulsa. 

For more information about the Wichita Valkyries, visit their Instagram page @wichitavalkyries or wichitarugby.com/valkyries

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About the Contributors
Isabel Ordoñez, Reporter
Isabel Ordoñez is a second-year news reporter for The Sunflower. Ordoñez is a transfer student from western Kansas, she's a senior at Wichita State majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and media production. Ordoñez is pursuing a career in the field of mass communications. She uses she/her pronouns.
Allison Campbell, News Editor
Allison Campbell is the news editor for The Sunflower. A South African native, Campbell is a junior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Campbell hopes to pursue a career in editing after graduation. They use any pronouns.

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