Rugby falls, but in fine fashion

By Daniel Kerwin

Playing any sport in a prom dress seems like it would be a difficult task, let alone a sport like rugby which relies heavily on the ability to run explosively and tackle hard. The Macalester women’s rugby team took on that challenge in fine fashion, playing what was perhaps their most competitive game of the season in their prom dress rugby game against St. Olaf last Saturday.”I feel we always play our best when we’re in prom dresses because we’re not afraid to look ridiculous, since we already look ridiculous,” Nadia Stennes-Spidahl ’11 said.

The concept of the game may seem quite novel, but it was played with the same intensity as a regular rugby game, if not more, despite being played in frigid conditions amid the first snowfall of the season. Throughout the game pieces of dress were torn off and left blowing across the Macalester Stadium field, leaving many of the players’ dresses in tatters.

At the end of the game Macalester had lost 25-0 against a tough St. Olaf team, which was a marked improvement from their 107-0 loss against St. Olaf earlier in the season. Despite not coming out on top on the scoreboard, Macalester won in another important facet of the game.

“By the end of the game we’d destroyed more of their dresses than they did ours,” Stennes-Spidahl said. “I don’t know if it was because our style was more scrappy or because they chose less sturdy dresses.”

The game was reduced to two 20 minute halves rather than the originally scheduled three 40 minute halves due to the cold, more for the sake of the spectators since the players were given extra warmth wearing the prom dresses over their normal rugby uniforms.

A welcome surprise among the rank of spectators was a news crew from WCCO television, who filmed a 19 second segment from the game for the evening’s 10 o’clock news. The story was then picked up by national media, being shown in several different states on “Good Morning America”.

“Some people didn’t even realize there were news people there,” Katie Agnew ’11 said. “Everyone was really surprised, it made it more exciting.”

Stennes-Spidahl got a starring role, shown being tackled in the first frame of the news clip.

“I was pretty excited to be getting tackled on ‘Good Morning America’,” Stennes-Spidahl said.

It was Macalester’s second consecutive year having a prom dress rugby game, last year’s game also being played at Macalester Stadium. Despite the news coverage the game received, prom dress rugby isn’t an entirely unique concept, with matches played in other parts of the country as well, such as an annual contest at UCLA.

With all the tearing of dresses that went on, it’s fortunate that the team wasn’t wearing their actual prom dresses. For the most part the team bought their dresses at Ragstock for between $8 and $20. The majority of the dresses the team bought had a very distinct 1980s style, with big puffy sleeves and other similarities.

“There was a lot of turquoise this year, it must have been popular 20 years ago,” Stennes-Spidahl said.

With the prom dress game over, the team is now ready to get on with the rest of their fall season.

The team has a lot of first time players, but has been getting progressively better throughout the season. They have yet to score any tries in three games, but are getting closer as the team gets more experienced. The team has had a demanding training schedule, holding team practices at 6 a.m. three days a week.

“We have a lot of new first years, it’s awesome to see them keep coming out,” Stennes-Spidahl said. “They’re awesome, they’ve learned a lot.”

Agnew is one of the players who is new to the team this season.

“I love waking up at six and practicing, it’s the perfect start to the day – wake up, kick some ass, do some homework, it’s pretty cool,” Agnew said.

Some players have learned first hand just how demanding being a rugby player can be. For example, at the game on Saturday, Dagny Heimisdottir ’12 broke her pelvic bone in three places and spent several days in the hospital.

“It seems with every game our team count dwindles,” Agnew said.

The team has three games left before the end of their season, with games scheduled against the Minnesota Valkyries B-side (a club team), Carleton and St. Benedicts. It’s hard for the team to reserve Macalester Stadium for games, so unfortunately there are no more home games to go out and see this season, but their game against the Valkyries this Sunday is being played nearby at Columbia Heights Park, Minneapolis.