by DANNY MORIARTY
From the Winonan, WSU’s student newspaper
For the seventh consecutive year, the Winona State University women’s rugby club team, the Black Katts, cruised through the regular season and earned an appearance in the Women’s Division II College Fall Championship.
Before reaching the title game, the Black Katts recorded another undefeated season and notched the number-one seed in the playoffs.
Despite battling numerous injuries and academic conflicts, the Katts offense was not in short supply this season, leading to multiple victories with scores over 100 points.
Senior Ellyn Grossen said the key to the team’s success over the last seven seasons was its detailed attention to fundamentals such as tackling, working as a team and trusting your teammates.
“The first is our fitness. We run daily, on top of our on-the-field practice time,” Grossen said. “The second is fundamentals. Passing, catching and the ability to do it at full pace. The third is continuity. When we take the ball into contact, we work on getting back into play as quickly as we can. We spend nearly half of every practice session on those things alone.”
The Black Katts started the season earning second in the All Minnesota Tournament, and then returned for their home opener for a 94-5 victory over University of Minnesota Duluth before defeating Gustavus Adolphus College 132-0 the following week.
Winona State followed those victories with a 108-0 win over Minnesota State University, Mankato and more continuous blowouts of 74-14 and 55-0 against University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and St. Cloud State University, respectively.
The Black Katts concluded the regular season with an 82-0 shutout against the University of North Dakota to win another Northern Lights Conference title and earn the number-one seed in the playoffs.
Winona State squared off against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the round of 32. Using its high-powered offense, Winona cruised to a 109-5 opening victory and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in Chicago.
First-year Emily Becker said going into the tournament in Chicago that the Black Katts needed to focus on executing their patterns and taking care of the ball while making tackles. She said the Black Katts were just as talented and needed “to play our game.”
“Our coaches are incredible and they deserve so much of the credit to this team’s success. But I would attribute a lot of the success to the alumni of the Black Katts,” Becker said. “These women started the traditions that we follow today that create the most amazing team atmosphere. We often refer to each other as our sisters, and that bond can carry you through so much.”