By Dolli Player, September 18, 2018, The Daily Universe.
Provo, UT - The BYU women’s rugby program has brought home many wins for the university while consistently flying under the radar.
The program has existed for 18 years after being founded by a student in the year 2000. In those 18 years, the team has grown from a group of 12 girls to a team of over 40 and is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation.
Head Coach Tom Waqa took over the team in 2004 when the organization was still recognized as the Women’s Cougar Rugby Club. After coaching the unofficial team for 11 years, Waqa was chosen as the official coach of the women’s team when the school gave it extramural status in 2015.
The team prides itself on taking girls with little-to-no rugby experience and crafting them into elite, nationally recognized players. Recognizable names include six-time All-American and member of the USA national team Jordan Gray, former World Rugby 7’s team member Rebekah Siebach, and former national team member and current coaching assistant Rebekah Hebdon.
“I grew up playing different sports and found out that I could incorporate them all into rugby, and it ended up being my favorite (sport),” Hebdon said.
Stories like Hebdon’s are common, with most of the past and present players coming to the team with a background in sports like soccer, softball and track.
“My favorite moment of last season was seeing the new girls who just played one semester playing a game in the DI Elite semifinals,” Waqa said. “For new girls to come in and pick up the game after just two months and play at the highest level is very encouraging for the program.”