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Wheeling Jesuit to Add Women's Varsity Rugby

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Wheeling Jesuit to Add Women's Varsity Rugby

WHEELING, WV. – Wheelng Jesuit University will be adding Women’s Varsity Rugby beginning in the fall 2016 semester.

The WJU women’s program will begin a national search for a women’s head coach to oversee this groundbreaking effort.

Cardinals men’s rugby head coach Tal Bayer will assume recruiting responsibilities in the interim with a goal of recruiting players for the first class.

“I am excited that the university will be adding a women’s program, and I look forward to helping build on the growth and momentum that rugby has created on this campus,” said Bayer. “There are some outstanding women’s rugby programs and players across the country that are looking for a quality college academic and athletic environments to continue to grow and learn in. Wheeling Jesuit is perfect for providing that opportunity.”

In four short years, the WJU men’s program has grown from 23 players in its first year to a 65-member squad size fielding three teams this year. With an active alumni base of support, the Cardinals men currently attract players from more than 16 states and 11 countries. After being introduced as a club sport in 1964 and after a brief hiatus in the late 1990’s, rugby was reintroduced in 2012 and the varsity team has made its mark.

The WJU men compete in the Rugby East Conference and have finished the past two years in the USA Rugby D1A National Top 20 rankings with four selected to the 2015 Rugby East All-Conference team. Four different WJU players have represented their countries (USA, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Trinidad) at various age grade levels (USA: High School All American-1, Collegiate All American-2, USA U20-2, Zimbabwe U18-1, Sri Lanka U20 and Men's-1, Trinidad and Tobago U18-1).

It is expected the women's program will have a similar draw. With a roster comprised of freshman and transfer students, the women’s rugby program will play an independent schedule in their first year. Ultimately, the program will join the other NCAA women’s sports on campus and compete at the highest level possible.

"We are excited to continue to build a well-rounded athletic department on the WJU campus," said athletic director Kevin Forde.  "With the current and expected growth of women's rugby, we are hoping to be on the cutting edge as one of the founding universities as this sport develops."  

As a varsity program on campus, the women’s rugby team will have a full-time head coach, will be able to offer competitive scholarship packages and receive all the other benefits of every other varsity sport.