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Reina Anderson, Brookfield's Scholarship Athlete

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Reina Anderson, Brookfield's Scholarship Athlete

Reina Anderson, a consummate leader and star of Wisconsin's Brookfield Bruisers.

When one thinks of girls high school rugby in the Midwest, two teams come to mind: Divine Savior Holy Angels and Catholic Memorial. The Wisconsin duo is the standard for their age group, but that doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on talent. Reina Anderson is proof of such. The Wauwatosa East senior has been an influential force during the resurgence of the Brookfield Bruisers, which finished third in Wisconsin last year.

Anderson followed a tried-and-true path to rugby: First, a friend introduces the sport to a female athlete who has always been intrigued by football. Second, athlete hesitates when considering the potential conflict that playing rugby might create with other sports’ commitments. Third, athlete attends first rugby practice, falls in love, and then everything else works itself out.

It also helped that Anderson was a natural.

“My track skills helped me with my speed and endurance on the rugby pitch,” the 18-year-old center/fullback/flanker said. “Also, my experience as a cheerleader helped me with my upper body strength. Lineouts were a very similar motion to a cheerleading stunt, enabling me to be a strong lifter.”

But it was really her speed that set her apart, and it was garnering attention outside of the league. At the end of her inaugural season, Brookfield played Appleton for 7th place at the 2013 State Tournament. Anderson scored three tries, helping the Bruisers to a come-from-behind win. That experience not only solidified Anderson's love of the sport but also introduced her to another level of play.

“Speaking with various college coaches about going on to play rugby in college showed me how this sport could change my life and open many doors for my future,” Anderson said of a pivotal moment. “I would love the opportunity to play at a higher level against more formidable opponents while learning to become a better, faster stronger player.”

Brookfield named Anderson MVP of the 2013 season. She then joined the Wisconsin All Stars in 2014, getting her first taste of diversified competition alongside serious athletes. As a senior, she was named team captain and helped Brookfield finish third at States last October.

“All I can say is Reina has been a joy to watch and develop into a premiere high school rugby player,” Brookfield coach Neil Grintjes said. “She has the best backline burst of speed I have ever seen … and has broken the single-season club record of 18 tries in just six matches this season. Reina is truly a diamond in the rough.”

Grintjas also pointed out that Anderson’s presence and dedication helped the club grow. “Good players created interest in the sport,” the 20-year veteran of the sport said. She’s gone a step farther as well. Anderson coaches tag rugby at Pepp Nation, a community-based organization founded by ex-NFL player Brandon Culpepper. The program targets inner-city youth and engages them through sports.

Anderson’s mom works hard, too. She reached out to Lindenwood coach Billy Nicholas and familiarized him with her daughter’s achievements. After a couple of conference calls, the coach decided to see Anderson play in person.

“I had the chance to travel up to the Wisconsin State Championships this past fall and see a number of outstanding players from several great programs, and Reina was an individual that definitely stuck out to me,” Nicholas said. “The one thing that doesn't take you long to recognize is Reina's speed – she is very fast and also has good footwork. She has a passion for the game as well, which is one of the things I don't compromise on when reaching out to players to come to LU. You have to love rugby, to love playing here, and she does. She's got a great head on her shoulders, and I think she has a ton of potential as a player.”

The DI team is undergoing a revolution of sorts, as a slew of All Americans are signing with the Lady Lions. And Anderson can now call herself one of them, as she recently signed her letter of intent with Lindenwood.

“I think Lindenwood Rugby is extraordinary because they have a top-ranked program and take dedication to success in rugby seriously,” Anderson said. “Their players are actively involved in both 15s and 7s rugby across multiple seasons of play. I was also very impressed by the way the coach really focuses on developing the players and giving them opportunities to play and grow. I know that my motivated personality and commitment to the game of rugby would embolden me to excel with Lindenwood.”

As for her final season of high school rugby, Anderson is looking forward to playing with the Atlantis U19s in Atlanta [editor's note: original story erroneously indicated that Anderson was playing with Atlantis in Las Vegas]. There’s also the Midwest Championship in late April, so catch a glimpse of the Brookfield Bruiser when you can, because in a few short months, she’ll join the illustrious class of Wisconsin scholarship athletes as a Lady Lion.