Fresno State’s women’s rugby club is hoping to make history this weekend.
The Bulldogs face Eastern Washington in the USA Rugby Division II Spring Championships Round of 16 at 9 a.m. Saturday in Bellingham, Wash., earning their second consecutive trip to the postseason after going 7-0 in the spring season and capturing the West Coast Conference title.
Fresno State is No. 6 in the Division II college rankings of The Rugby Breakdown, the highest of the four teams at the regional.
The team isn’t part of the athletic department. It receives some funding from the university student affairs budget but not enough to cover the $10,000 expense to fly the team of 35 to Washington. To make ends meet, the club has sold raffle tickets and 338 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts and sought donations.
“It’s a lot of work, but we all love rugby,” junior scrum half Moriah Halteman said. “We love being out here with the club and playing together and working with our coaches, who are also volunteers. We all just put in the effort because we love it so much.”
The Bulldogs, coached by Amber Cluff and Barry Foley, won a conference title last year and earned an at-large playoff bid before losing in the first round.
This year, their sights are set higher.
“We’re 100 times more hyped to go into this championship because last year was a big disappointment,” senior back Jenna Balestra said.
Added Halteman: “I think that’s what’s so cool about our team and why we have this drive to win up in nationals and go as far as we can is because we’ve put so much extra work into it. We’ve done everything we can to get here.”
Saturday’s playoff match will be live-streamed on YouTube. Links are posted on match day at wp.wwu.edu/campusrec/rugbyplayoffs.
The winner advances to a Sunday quarterfinal against Western Washington or Grand Canyon.
The Final Four and championship games will be April 22-23 at Stanford.