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Tradition Helps Fuel High-Flying Air Force Women

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Tradition Helps Fuel High-Flying Air Force Women

2018 Fall D1 champions, Air Force also won the D1 Women's College 7s championship, and here posed with their trophy after winning in Tucson, Ariz. in August.

The US Air Force Academy has a long history of success, and the team to build on it this weekend.

Defending Women’s D1 fall champs, and defending D1 Women's 7s champs, Air Force goes into Sunday’s final against Navy having steamrolled their opponents, and as such are probably favorites.

The Falcons have won six league and two playoff games by an average score of 83-11. The fewest points they have scored was in the national quarterfinal against Indiana—67. 

“Having had those games canceled, we’re really excited to play Navy now,” scrumhalf Devin Doyle told Goff Rugby Report. 

Added fullback/center Jacqueline Hamby, “it’s really neat to see players who have similar backgrounds and similar stressors to us. It’s great tat we’re both in the final.”

Fall 2019 Air Force Conference And Playoff Results
       
Sep 15th, 2019 Air Force 82 - 5 New Mexico
Sep 29th, 2019 Air Force 109 - 0 Colorado
Oct 13th, 2019 Air Force 75 - 33 Wyoming
Oct 20th, 2019 Air Force 101 - 12 Colorado State
Oct 27th, 2019 Air Force 74 - 12 Montana State
Nov 3rd, 2019 Air Force 83 - 19 Wyoming
Nov 23rd, 2019 Air Force 67 - 0 Indiana
Nov 24th, 2019 Air Force 71 - 10 Minnesota

History Stays Alive

There’s a lot of history there, too. And they know it. History is a big part of the Air Force program, and Doyle said the team continues to receive support and encouragement from alumni from the championship teams from the 1980s and later.

“We’re trying to incorporate what’s happened in the past and bring that tradition to the present,” said the scrumhalf, who is hoping to enter the Air Force’s space program when she graduates. “We want to make sure that the whole team knows the history of the Air Force women’s program.”

“The tradition is more than just the results,” added Hamby, who is looking to be a pilot when she receives her commission. “It’s the hard work and the dedication to the team as a whole.”

Positivity Through Injuries 

All of that has come together this year. Despite losing several very talented seniors to graduation. Despite having other talented players out with injuries. Despite seeing their superb fullback, Meghan Guinee leave the field against Indiana with a broken leg, the Air Force team continues to perform.

“It does hurt to see players out with injury, and I know what it was like as I had to sit out with an ACL tear last year,” said Hamby, who has scored 189 points in eight games this season. “But to see the positivity from the players who are out is huge for us. Seeing Meghan coming to every practice to cheer us on means a lot. They show that it’s more than just a game; the culture of the team gets us ready for these high-level games.”

Culture And The Coach

Squeezing rugby in between other mandatory briefings and activities, the Air Force team has thrived under Head Coach Amy Rusert. She has been a constant presence and an intelligent rugby mind, but also understanding when practices have to be changed at the last minute, or Academy responsibilities mean schedules shift.

“Amy and all our coaches are always very supportive of us and what our military duties are,” said Hamby. “They’re helping us develop on and off the field, and their support has been pivotal.”

Rusert also challenges them, bringing in the Air Force men’s team to play opposition, making sure that if a team is fast or physical, the Air Force women have seen it before.

“It encourages us to push ourselves,” said Doyle. “We’ve been working very hard to prepare for Navy, and we’ve made adjustments through the season. We lost some seniors who did some amazing jobs on and off the field, and our pack is definitely smaller than it has been. But we’ve had some freshmen step in Kaylee Eskeli has come in to play No. 8 after being a back for three years and she’s done an amazing job. We’re all still working hard and supporting each other.”

That’s the Air Force way.