Forge Women Earn Consecutive Midwest Playoff Berths

Beth Rose (Penn State) bursting through South Buffalo players as she rushes down the field.

 

Pittsburgh, PENNSYLVANIA – In the club’s second fall season, Forge Women’s Rugby has finished the fall 2019 season with an impressive 4-1 record, securing the second spot in the Midwest Women’s East Gold Division 2 standings. The Forge qualified for playoffs and will be traveling this weekend (10/26) to play the Cincinnati Kelts who are the top seed in the Midwest Women’s East Green Division 2 standings. It is sure to be a physically demanding, fast-paced, exciting game.

Last year in their inaugural season, Forge Women’s Rugby boasted an undefeated regular season and powered their way through to the second round of playoffs. The team returned to the competitive Midwest East Gold stage this fall with extremely high expectations and a work ethic to match. This fall, many new players joined the team and jumped right into the rigorous training that pushes the team to maintain their dominating field presence. Both new and returning players, as well as a returning coaching staff, were eager to jump into the club’s second season with their impressive, albeit short, history pushing them forward.

The season began with an away scrimmage against a Division 1 opponent, Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Football Club. The Forge were unsuccessful in this match up, but the team agreed that it was valuable to start the season with a tough opponent. Many new Forge players were able to see the pitch during this friendly match, and it proved to be a valuable opportunity for the Forge to fine-tune strategy and game plans for the upcoming league match against South Buffalo.

On September 14, the first league match of the 2019 season, the Forge traveled to Buffalo to take on South Buffalo Women’s Rugby. The Forge was able to win this match with an impressive score of 53-22. Highlights of this game include 2 tries and 4 conversions from Morgan Haggerty (Ohio Univ.), 3 tries from Scout Cheeks (Penn State), and 2 tries from Mackenzie Dirlam (Pitt).

Immediately following this game, the Forge’s second side made their debut and took the pitch. Forge women were able to play Burlington, a competitive Canadian club, as the mechanics of this newly formed second side fell into place. Burlington traveled to Buffalo for this match up, and the team was able to have a thorough showing of athleticism and skill.

On September 21, the week following the decisive victory over South Buffalo, the Forge hosted the Cleveland Iron Maidens. The Forge received their second league match victory, besting the Iron Maidens with a score of 63-10. In a great showing of teamwork and camaraderie, 6 different Forge players were able to score tries against Cleveland.

Nickole Burkett (SRU) fends off Cleveland defense.

 

After the completion of this game, the Forge’s second side squared up against the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Scooters (IUP). The game was fast-paced and physical, and the Forge faced a tough opponent. IUP is a well-established, historically successful collegiate club. Forge was able to defeat IUP, and the second side enjoyed a win.

On September 21, the following weekend, the team traveled to Buffalo yet again to take on the North Buffalo Ninjas. In the first half, both teams held their own and refused to give up many points. At half, the score was Ninjas 7, Forge 14. After a quick, leadership-driven effort to regroup, the Forge returned to the field with a unified energy that proved to be contagious. The Forge scored 6 tries in the second half. Impressively, Mackenzie Dirlam made all 8 conversion kicks.

After their previous wins and a wholly successful season, the Forge next enjoyed a bye week and a chance to recover and regroup after what has proven to be a physically demanding season. On October 12, Forge women hosted Buffalo Rugby for the initial match on the second annual Forge Day. All Pittsburgh Forge teams were able to enjoy playing at home, and as an additional bonus, the Forge women were featured on USA Rugby’s 6 Pack Preview as a game to note over this weekend. Buffalo RFC and Pittsburgh Forge were both undefeated going into this match, and USA Rugby anticipated that this match would be “a classic match up of Unmovable Object meets an Unstoppable Force.”

Mackenzie Dirlam fighting through Buffalo defenders in search of the try zone.

 

Unfortunately. Forge fell to Buffalo with a final score of 17-31. The team made their best effort to stay in the game – Mackenzie Dirlam scored a try and made a conversion in minute 80. This was the Forge’s first loss in a league match since the club was founded last year.

Immediately following the first side versus Buffalo, the Forge’s second side took the pitch to face off against California University Women’s Rugby (Cal U). Cal U, another well-established and historically successful collegiate team, showed the Forge a great match. Skilled players on both sides were able to excel and demonstrate excellent skills. Forge were victorious over Cal U.

In the final league match of the season, Forge traveled to Akron this past Saturday (October 19) to take on Akron Rugby. In a most impressive showing, Forge defeated Akron 70-0. On the heels of the dissatisfying loss to Buffalo Rugby, the Forge was pleased to gain some confidence and solidify their mindset as they move into the first round of playoffs this upcoming weekend. Stay tuned for playoff reports.

D2 Men Secure Top Seed in Midwest Eastern Conference

Forge Center Craig Williamson carrying the ball against the Cleveland Crusaders.

 

Pittsburgh, PENNSYLVANIA – After this past weekend’s 60 – 5 dominating win over Chicago’s Southside Irish Rugby Club, the Forge D2 Men have finished Midwest league play undefeated, posting an impressive 6 – 0 – 1 record and earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference. With that seed, the Forge are guaranteed home field advantage through the first two rounds of the Midwest Playoffs.

During their first season as a club in the fall of 2018, the club earned a very respectable 5 – 3 record during league play and a birth to the Midwest playoffs as a Wild Card. With that seed, the club traveled more than eleven hours to Cottage Grove, Wisconsin and were handed a humbling 34 – 5 defeat. The next spring spring, determined to better themselves as a side, the Forge participated in the Midwest’s  Thunderbird Elite Cup playing several Division I clubs including Scioto Valley RFC, the Cincinnati Wolfhounds and the Chicago Griffins, earning a 2 – 1 record against those sides. The club’s coaches and captains were hoping that the high-level competition would improve the side’s skills and mental toughness.

The fall league competition would be revamped for the Forge as the teams from upstate New York were replaced with Midwestern sides from the Chicago area; however, the Forge would open the season against a familiar foe, the Cleveland Crusaders. Last season, the Forge would lose both games of the home and away series with the Crusaders by a combined three (3) points. The Crusaders go on to eventually win the coveted Midwest Championship at Division II.

This season, the Forge would be tested early playing the defending Midwest Champs in Cleveland right out of the gate. Thanks to stellar team defensive play and tries from scrumhalf Rous Kluever (PITT) and Sam Angelo (SRU/ IUP), the Forge was able to exact revenge on their rivals to start the season with fantastic 15 – 12 win over the Crusaders on the road. This important win would set the tone for the 2019 fall season.

The next weekend, the Forge would come home to play a new and unfamiliar foe, Lincoln Park Rugby. It was an extremely hot day which evened the playing field as both sides struggled to stay hydrated and move in the heat. In the end, the Forge were able to get tries from Rous Kluever, Alex Gordon (SRU), Frank Cacciotti (Geneva), and Craig Williamson to defeat Lincoln Park by a score of 29 – 20 and improve to 2 – 0 on the young season.

Center Neil Reynolds carries the ball against the Crusader defense. Photo: Cody Fulton

 

On September 21st, the Forge would travel to Indianapolis, Indiana to take on the Impalas. These two clubs met in the spring during the Thunderbird Cup with the Impalas defeating the Forge on home soil in Pittsburgh. The spring game proved chippy and physical and would be the first of match of a budding rivalry between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

On this day, the Forge would battle hard in a hostile Indiana environment to earn a 26 – 26 draw. Tries were scored by Andrew Chapman, Tyree Massie (Cal U) [2], and Tony Wilson (Woodland Hills HS). With the bonus point for tries scored, the Forge was happy to leave Indiana with three points earned out of a possible five given the circumstance.

To close out September, the Forge would host the Chicago Blaze, another unfamiliar foe from the City by the Lake. The Blaze were 3 – 1 and at the top of the table at the time and would be yet another great test for the Forge men. With tries from Chris Austin, Rous Kluever and Neil Reynolds (UPJ), the Forge would cruise to a 20 – 5 victory and take over first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time with a 3 – 0 – 1 record.

Just two weeks removed from playing the Impalas in Indianapolis, the Forge would host them in Pittsburgh on October 5th. Fresh off the draw from September, the Forge were looking defeat the Impalas handily on home soil. Unfortunately, like most good rivalries, this match would not be so easy. The sides battled back and forth the entire match, with the Indianapolis holding a one-point lead (17- 16) at the half. In the second half, when one side would slot a penalty kick, the other would as well; when one side would find the try zone, the other would as well, too.

With just five minutes remaining, the Forge found themselves down by six (30 – 24) before loose forward Tony Cardamone (SRU) would find the try zone and inject life into his teammates and the home crowd. After the conversion was missed, the Forge were still down by one point (30 – 29), but savvy scrumhalf  Rous Kluever would find the try zone with just one minute remaining to stun the Impalas and secure the win for the Forge. After the Andrew Knuttel (PITT) conversion, the final score read 36 – 30. Knuttel would be named the Man of the Match thanks to his four (4) penalty kicks and two (2) conversions for 16 points on the day. Other tries were scored by flyhalf Tyree Massie and center Billy Gordon (Villanova).

Center Craig Williamson scoring a try between the posts on Forge Day. Photo: Cody Fulton

 

To close out their home schedule, the Forge would host the Cleveland Crusaders to close our their home and away series with playoff implications on the line. After a quick initial score by DC MLR’s Zach Forro to put the Crusaders in the lead early, a try by center Craig Williamson, followed by a conversion and a couple penalty kicks by Andrew Knuttel saw the Forge take a 13 – 5 lead into the half. After Williamson’s second try of the game at the fifty-minute mark (converted by Knuttel), the Forge were flying high with a 20 – 5 lead and time dwindling down on the Crusaders. After a couple of yellow cards gave the Crusaders new life, they would battle back to close the gap to one point (20 – 19) at the seventy-minute mark. Forge prop Christian Mans would extend the lead at seventy-eight minutes, but a try in extra time would give the Crusaders a chance to win the game on the conversion with no time remaining. Thankfully for the Forge, the kick would fall short and the Forge would sweep the season series against the Crusaders by a score of 25 – 24. Similar to last season when the Crusaders swept the Forge by three (3) points, the Forge were able to turn the tables and sweep the Crusaders in 2019 by a total of four (4) points.

To close out league play, the Forge would travel to Chicago to take on the Southside Irish. Neil Reynolds (3), David Ashline (PITT) [2], and Bryce Markwardt (SRU) [2], would all put down multiple tries on the way to a convincing 60 – 5 win. With the victory, the Forge would finish the season with a 6 – 0 – 1 record and secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

This weekend, the Forge will host the number two seeded club from the Chicago sub – league, Lincoln Park Rugby. The game will be held at the Forge’s home pitch at Phillip Murray Field with a 2:00 pm EST kickoff scheduled. The address for Phillip Murray Field is 725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15210. The game will be followed by the Forge’s third side hosting California University of Pennsylvania.

With a victory, the Forge would then host the winner of the other (Eastern Conference) quarter final match between the Cleveland Crusaders and the Chicago Blaze being played in Chicago. The Eastern Conference Championship will be held on Saturday, November 2nd. We welcome all fans of the Forge and Pittsburgh to join us for this weekend’s game, it’s the first senior men’s club playoff game hosted in Pittsburgh in nearly two decades.

Forge Men Excited for Fall 2019 Season

Pittsburgh Forge Men pause for a picture under the goal posts after defeating the Syracuse Chargers to open up league play on Saturday, August 25, 2018.

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – After a long summer off, the Forge Men were thrilled to get back at it in August in their preparations for the fall 2019 season. Coming off 2018 fall season which saw both sides earn playoff berths and a challenging spring campaign, the men were looking forward to growth both in numbers and competitiveness that would allow them to take the next step.

Both Midwest leagues that the Forge compete in experienced some change since last fall. In Division 2, Pittsburgh and Cleveland will no longer play cross-over matches against clubs from upstate New York. Rather, the entire Midwest territory is split into four: North, West, Central, and East. The eastern clubs, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, will play each other twice in a home and away series while playing crossover games with three sides from the Central, predominantly Chicago sides. Two clubs from each league will earn a spot in the playoffs, so the Forge will need to finish ahead of either Cleveland or Indianapolis to earn a playoff berth.

In Division 3, the league was split into Ohio and Pennsylvania (ARU) sub-divisions last season, each with four sides. This allowed home at home series within each club’s union/ state and cross-overs only occurred during the league playoffs. This season, Canton has merged with Akron to eliminate a team from the competition. With only seven sides, the league was consolidated into one league with each team playing one another. Rather than league playoffs, the side at the top of the table at the conclusion of league competition will enter directly into Midwest playoffs.

The D2 men will be challenged right away by traveling to the Midwest Champion Cleveland Crusaders in week one. Last season, the Forge lost to Cleveland in Ohio by a narrow margin of 31 – 29. About a month later, the Forge looked to exact revenge on the Crusaders at home but lost by an even less margin of 32 – 31. This season, with increased knowledge, better conditioning and some different faces, the Forge look to improve upon last year’s performances.

Forge forward Alex Gordon carries the ball against the Cleveland Crusaders. Photo Credit: Kiyomi Knox

 

The D3 men will also open their season on the road when they travel to Mt. Pleasant, PA to take on the Greensburg Maulers. Last season, the Forge swept the season series against the Maulers by an aggregate score of 153 – 24. This first match will be a chance for Coach Allan Murray to get a better look at several new players for the Forge include scrumhalf Francois Deniau and loose forwards Michael Rennie and Zach Seger (RMU), all of which may play a role on the club’s higher side as the season progresses.

The following week, the men will host their first home matches of the season. The D2 side will host Lincoln Park Rugby Club, an unfamiliar foe. Last season, Lincoln Park went 4 – 3 – 1 against western Division 2 sides. On the contrary, the D3 men will host a familiar foe, the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. Last season, the Forge also swept that season series by an aggregate score of 81 – 46. To close out the day, the new D4 developmental side will host a local collegiate side from Point Park University.

On September 21st, the third week of competition, the Forge Men will once again be on the road. The D2 side will travel to Indianapolis to exact revenge on the Impalas. This past spring, as part of the Midwest CR’s Thunderbird Cup, the Forge lost narrowly at home to the impressive Impalas. Indianapolis went 5 – 3 last season in the west and were also a playoff side. The D3 and D4 men will travel to western Cleveland to take on two Rover sides. Last season, in the league playoffs consolation game, the D3 men bested the Rovers by a score of 50 – 20. Both sides will be using D4 as developmental, and this will be the first of a home at home series between the sides in fall 2019.

The Forge will once again return home as September closes out. The D2 side will host the Chicago Blaze, another unfamiliar foe from the central league. Last season the Blaze went 2 – 5 – 1 in western D2 competition. The D3 men will host the Eastern League champions from last season, the Presque Isle Scallywags. Last year, the Forge split the series with the Scallywags. The two sides met in Erie last September with Presque Isle dealing the Forge a humbling loss by the score of 30 – 14. The Forge was able to exact revenge about a month later in Pittsburgh, dealing the Scallywags their only loss of the season by a score of 21 – 17. The club is still searching for a D4 opponent for this weekend.

Forge Center David Gregg attacks the heart of the Hooligan defense.

 

To start October, the Forge will enjoy a few weeks of home cooking. First, on October 5th, the Forge will host the Impalas in the return match of the home at home. With the D3 men off with a bye, the D4 men will enjoy their return match of the home at home series with the Cleveland Rovers. The following weekend will be Forge Day, the club’s annual homecoming celebration. Both the D2 and D3 men will host the Cleveland Crusaders. This will be the return game in the series against the D2 Crusaders while it will be the first time the D3 sides meet since the Crusaders controversially beat the Forge in the league playoffs last year by a score of 38 – 29. The club is currently looking to secure a D4 match that weekend.

The following weekend, both sides will finish up league play the same way it began… on the road. The D2 side will travel to southern Chicago to face the South Side Irish. The Irish were a 1 – 7 club last season in the western league and were bested by the Pittsburgh Rugby Club in their last season of existence in 2017. The D3 men will travel to Ohio to face Akron, who recently inherited the Canton Maddogs. In the spring, the Forge traveled to Akron and played the newly combined Ohio side, losing a back and forth match 51 – 24.

The following weekend will be Midwest Playoffs for the Division 2 side while D3 earns a bye prior to the playoffs. The D4 developmental men will host Penn State – Altoona in a friendly match at Phillip Murray Field. If both D2 and D3 can make it through October, they will play in the Midwest Conference Playoffs scheduled for November 2, 2019. Winners of that round will travel to Chicago, IL on November 9th for the Midwest Championships and the right to represent the Union in the USA Rugby National Playoffs in May.

FORGE MEN FALL 2019 SCHEDULE

Date Division 2 Division 3 Division 4/ Develop
September 7 @ Cle. Crusaders @ Greensburg
September 14 v. Lincoln Park v. South Pitt v. Point Park
September 21 @ Indy Impalas @ Cle. Rovers @ Cle. Rovers
September 28 v. Chicago Blaze v. Presque Isle TBD
October 5 v. Indy Impalas Bye v. Cle. Rovers
October 12* v. Cle. Crusaders v. Cle. Crusaders (D3) TBD
October 19 @ South Side Irish @ Akron
October 26 Midwest Playoffs Bye v. PSU – Altoona
November 2 Midwest Playoffs Midwest Playoffs
November 9 Midwest Championship Midwest Championship

*Denote 2019 Forge Day; games played at White Oak Park. All other games are played at Phillip Murray Field near the South Side.

Forge Women Open Season Against Philadelphia

Forge Women lineup for team photo after their defeat of Buffalo

 

PHILADELPHIA, PA – This Saturday, the Forge women begin their second competitive season with a scrimmage in Philadelphia. The women are slated to play against the D1 side of the Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Football Club (PWRFC) in what is sure to be a challenging, fast-paced, physical match.

Last fall, during the club’s inaugural season, the Forge women were able to maintain an almost entirely undefeated record. The team lost only to Buffalo Rugby in the second round of the East Gold playoffs.

PWRFC and the Forge have met before. This past spring, the Forge were victorious over the well-established PWRFC in another friendly match. This upcoming scrimmage will be a platform to work out future lineups, positions, and other logistical questions that have pegged the team in the off-season. The team has been fortunate to have many new faces at practice, and this Saturday will give the coaching staff an opportunity to truly gauge the depth of the team.

Morgan Haggerty, a member of the team’s leadership group, expressed her positive outlook on the upcoming match.

“We have a ton of experienced returning players and many promising new players. I am excited to see the potential unfold and it all starts with our first scrimmage this Saturday.”

Mackenzie Dirlam, another member of the team’s leadership group, expressed similar enthusiasm.

“I am just excited to play for and with the amazing group of women we have, and I cannot wait to see what the season holds for us!”

Captain Chelsey Mitchell shares a similar sentiment.

“The team as a whole has a determined mindset that I’m confident will boost the play on the field, friendships off the field, and steer us toward a winning season,” Chelsey stated.

Stay tuned for the results of the upcoming scrimmage. The Forge’s full schedule can be found below:

9/7: Forge @ Philadelphia (non-league)
9/14: Forge @ South Buffalo
9/21: Forge v. Cleveland Iron Maidens
9/28: Forge @ North Buffalo
10/12: Forge v. Buffalo WRFC (Forge Day)
10/19: Forge @ Akron

Forge Men Announce 3rd Side for Fall 2019

Flyhalf Tyree Massie, supported by his teammates, carries the ball against the Indianapolis Impalas this past spring. Photo Credit: Nicole Beswick

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is pleased to announce the development of a third men’s side for the Fall 2019 season. This social/ developmental side will play three or four games, predominantly at home, alongside the club’s competitive Division 2 and Division 3 sides. 

The goal of the side is to allow players who are unable to regularly attend training sessions, participate in weekly league matches, and travel regionally for games to stay involved with the sport they love while assisting full-time club players who are developing their skills in an effort to make the club’s competitive top two sides. 

Men’s players interested in participating in matches this fall should complete the following tasks:

  1. Register to play part-time with the Forge and choose your Fall 2019 availability here.
  2. Pay Bronze (General) Membership Dues to the Club here.
  3. Register with USA Rugby for the Pittsburgh Forge here.*

*Please note that the annual CIPP cycle runs from August to July. If you are reading this announcement prior to August 20th, please wait until the CIPP cycle renews for 2019 – 2020.

Any questions regarding the club’s newest side should e-mailed the club at PGHForgeRugby@gmail.com

Club Member Spotlight: Derek Neubauer

Coach Derek Neubauer celebrating a cup win with a championship snack.

 

For the fourth spotlight in our Member Spotlight Monday series, we focus on a long-time club member Derek Neubauer. Derek, a ten-year member of the club, has been coaching the University of Pittsburgh Men for the past several years while remaining an active player for the Forge and a referee. We found a few minutes to catch up with him and ask about his experiences…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. I started playing rugby in Pittsburgh with the Highlanders right after college before I left for a job in New York City. Upon my return to the area in 2009, I began playing for the Pittsburgh Rugby Club until presently with the Forge.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. I had graduated from Slippery Rock and was living only 5 miles from campus, when current players asked me to coach since I wasn’t willing to drive the hour plus to practice and play. I thought it was a good way for me to stay involved while not really being able to play.

Q. Many players can identify one specific person (whether that be a coach or an influential teammate) that had a significant impact on them. Who is that person for you and what lesson did they teach you?

A. For the first 5 years I played, we never had a coach so there were a lot of people that played in high school that were coached that I learned a lot playing with. One person in particular was Brian Beauregard, he came from the Doylestown High School program and probably had more rugby experience when I met him than I had in any other sport. He brought so many little nuances of the sport that it took mine and are entire teams’ game to a different level. You could tell he was coached quite a bit and what he brought to us only made me look into the game harder to see what else I could find out.

Derek playing for Pittsburgh Rugby Club in 2017.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. I currently coach the University of Pittsburgh Men’s Rugby Club and really just try to instill in them to be the most knowledgeable player they can be and that rugby is a game that can be played after college so if you can do it past college you should.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. Playing wise – Without a doubt it was the Pittsburgh Rugby Clubs playoff run in 2012. We had to travel by plane to Chicago then Des Moines Iowa to still drive another 3 hours to play Bremer County in the first round of the playoffs. The game went to two 10-minute overtimes with us winning eventually by 8 points. Then two weekends after that we traveled back to Chicago and beat the Cleveland rovers coming back and scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes to book our trip to nationals.

Coaching wise – Honestly my most rewarding part of coaching is playing with all the players that I have coached in the past. It’s great to see them grow as players and hopefully use the skills that I may have had in helping them develop. Also, it has come to the point where I have coached players that are now out of playing and seeing them continue in the game either by reffing or coaching themselves.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. If you truly love the game then you will get involved past your playing days, if you need encouraged to do it, then it will be for the wrong reasons.

Club Member Spotlight: Angela Smarto

Angela Smarto coaching the women of Robert Morris University.

 

The third spotlight in our Member Spotlight series is someone who works tirelessly with unwavering enthusiasm and passion to provide opportunities to grow the game and advocate for our sport – Angela Smarto.

Angela graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education & Teaching and has since obtained her master’s degree in Special Education and Teaching from Point Park University. In addition to her full-time position at the AIU Alternative Education Program, Angela manages to find the time to serve as the ARU College Coordinator, Coach and Manager for the ARU Women’s Select Program, and head coach for the Robert Morris University Women’s Team.

While her rugby resume is both long and impressive, it’s important to highlight that Angela also served as the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s last President and played a vital role in the successful merger and formation of our very own Pittsburgh Forge.

We were lucky to catch Angela with some free time in her jam-packed schedule to learn more about her rugby experiences as both a player and a coach. Here’s what she had to say…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. I began playing in college at Penn State University which happens to be the most storied collegiate women’s rugby program in the country. There I was on three DI national championship teams, and two DI National Runner – Up teams. After I graduated and moved home, I joined the Pittsburgh Angels at the height of their competitive history. We won back to back DII National Championships in 2012 and 2014. We made the move to DI and had an inaugural undefeated DI regular season and made it to the Club National Semi-Final match. In that time, I also became an admin of the club revamping Steel City 7s, starting the annual Golf Outing, and being the official last president of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club before our merger in 2018.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. When studying to become a teacher you are required to have a certain number of hours working with youth. There was a call from the local State High Girls Rugby team to the PSU team for some assistant coaches for the season. We were all encouraged by our coaches because they said being a coach would help us be better players. The opportunity was too perfect to pass up so beginning my sophomore year of college I was an assistant coach. I received my required hours in the first season, but I enjoyed it so much I stuck around for four more years. I am lucky that coaching opportunities continued to present themselves to me over the last decade.

Q. Many players can identify one specific person (whether that be a coach or an influential teammate) that had a significant impact on them. Who is that person for you and what lesson did they teach you?

A. Not a person, but the one and only Penn State University Women’s Rugby Club (PSUWRFC affectionately) has forever changed my life for the better. Not only did they introduce me to this great sport, but the values to be a leader among my peers. They taught me how to set goals, be bold, take risks, and to achieve. I truly can’t imagine my life without every player and coach involved in the club that so many of us alumnae hold so dearly.

Angela Smarto propping for the Pittsburgh Angels.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. In 2013 I received a phone call from a college freshman at Robert Morris University who played rugby in high school and wanted to keep playing college but there was no team to play on, so she asked if I’d be the coach of this new team. I agreed and since then I have coached over 100 women through the program in 15s and 7s seasons. Working with college players is really fun because you get to help them turn them into adults. I always stress time management skills, personal responsibility, and building lifelong friendships through enjoying the game together. If you ever come to practice, you’ll see this in action because we spend a lot of time laughing. We know when to be serious and when we can be a little less serious so we can always enjoy ourselves on and off the field.

I also started the Allegheny Rugby Union Women’s Select Side program in 2017 to offer all-star opportunities to our region’s best. It was a disservice to our local players to not give those deserving a chance to test their skills at a higher level than their regular season play. I asked some of my best rugby friends to join me, so we created an all-female coaching staff to run this endeavor. We believe in the power of leading by example and many of our players are coached by men, so we need to be the example for the future of women’s rugby. The goal is if players see us coaching, reffing, being admin, running tours, organizing training and so on that they will see us and believe that they could do it too. I’m happy to report that several of our players have not only continued in the program and reached higher levels of playing, but a few more have becomes certified coaches and referees and we like to think we’ve had a little bit to do with that.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. There isn’t one that’s any more important than the other. When I think of where I started to where I am now it’s rewarding to know that I’ve had the privilege to share rugby with so many young women. I’ve seen some on field success, but the stories that come up over and over again are all the funny moments. Like side splitting moments. My high school team made t-shirts with all my coach-isms with classics such as, “I will make you run home”. My college team made in into a meme to get people to practice. I’ve driven hundreds of miles, stopped at every Sheetz in Western PA, and drank my weight in caffeine every long weekend and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience. This year I had my first college player transition to a senior club team, two players begin coaching, and another get certified as a ref. To me that was a big milestone because I’ve made rugby a part of their life not just a thing they did in college. You don’t have to be the best to stay in the game but seeing two former players earn caps against the Black Ferns in Soldier Field last fall was pretty cool too.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. I’ve always seen rugby as a place of service. There are unlimited ways to serve so whatever time you have to give someone will find something for you to do. It’s ok to be a rookie again – a vet coach/ref/admin will help you learn new skills the same way you learned as a player.

Forge Offers Summer Youth Rugby at BGCWPA Carnegie!

CARNEGIE, PA – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is extremely pleased to announce a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania to offer youth rugby programming to campers at the Carnegie location this summer. Current player and alumni volunteers from the Forge will be instructing children ages 5 – 13 every Tuesday and Thursday beginning today, June 11th, through August 15th. This will be the Forge’s first effort in directly facilitating youth rugby programming in addition to currently supporting independent programs in both Moon Township and the North Hills via grants and in-kind donations.

This youth initiative, and all charitable giving, is being managed by the club’s Community Rugby Committee which is directed by Brooke Gawlas, a Community Reinvestment Act Officer for Washington Financial Bank. The committee is dedicated to finding the best ways to reinvest club assets towards the organization’s charitable mission of growing rugby and improving the game in our area. Such initiatives include, but are not limited to, hosting developmental and education clinics for coaches, players, and referees; offering youth and high school rugby programming to area athletes; and financially supporting other area rugby organizations and players through grants and donations.

Speaking specifically regarding the partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, Brooke remarked: “Fostering the growth of participation in Rugby Union is at the forefront of the Pittsburgh Forge’s mission. It is through these volunteer efforts that we are not only able act on our mission, but also give back to the local communities that we call home and support vital organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.”

For more information on this youth program and the Forge Grant Program, please e-mail the club at PGHForgeRugby@gmail.com

Club Member Spotlight: Brittany Marnell

Brittany Marnell playing for the Pittsburgh Highlander Women, carries the ball against the University of Pittsburgh Women in October 2015.

 

The second spotlight in our Member Spotlight Monday series is a hard-working rugby mom known for her fierce competitiveness on the field and from the sidelines – Brittany Marnell. Brittany, the wife of Club President Bill Marnell, remains a part-time player (especially summer 7’s) while being a full-time mother of two and rugby coach.

Brittany obtained her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education 2011 and her Master’s degree in Special Education in 2012 from California University of Pennsylvania. Brittany, from the South Hills of Pittsburgh, returned home and began teaching at a number of different area schools prior to landing a position Clairton Elementary School; there she teaches 1st Grade.

We were able to catch up with Brittany to chat about her rugby and coaching experiences…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. My name is Brittany Marnell. In addition to being a member of the Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club, I am also the current Head Coach of California University of Pennsylvania Women’s Rugby Club. I began playing rugby in 2007 for Cal U when I was a freshman in college. During my tenure there, which totaled five years in order to earn my Master’s Degree, I played predominantly in the centers for several very talented teams. After graduation, I began playing for the Pittsburgh Highlander Women where I moved from the centers to flyhalf. After playing full-time with the Highlanders for a few years, I took the job as Head Coach of the Cal U Women.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. As I played senior rugby, my husband and I decided we wanted to start having children and expand our family. This coincided with Cal U’s women’s coach, Jason Edsall, leaving to take a position on the eastern side of the state. I realized that with a growing family my opportunities to play would be fewer and farther between and what a better way to stay involved with, and give back to rugby, than to coach at my alma mater. It was important to me to remain involved with rugby in some way and this opportunity allowed me to do that while growing my family in Pittsburgh.

Brittany Marnell coaching the California University of Pennsylvania Women’s Club in April 2017.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. During my tenure at Cal U, my girls have accomplished many things. On the field, we’ve earned berths to the NSCRO 7’s National Championships four years in a row, a tremendous accomplishment. Additionally, this past season, the girls also won the ARU NSCRO 15’s championship and we finished third in our region ranking 11th in the country at that level. This on the field success has coincided with tremendous growth off the field, as a club/ organization and my girls have grown as individuals and rugby players. One of the most important messages that I try to instill into all of my players is that rugby is so much more than just a sport. Rugby is a culture, can take you to new places, and bring into your life some amazing people that can become lifelong friends, or even like family. We’ve had several players earn their way to regional and conference select sides that has afforded them the ability to travel all over the country and the opportunity to play at a high level. This includes the Invitational 7’s Tournament in Las Vegas and the College Rugby Championships in Philadelphia. While playing at Cal, and those various select teams, many of my girls made close, lifelong friends that they remain in contact with today. When my husband and I got married, more than half of our wedding party was made up of fellow ruggers who remain like family to us today. This concept is important and something that makes rugby much different than other sports.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. By far, the most rewarding part of my coaching journey has been witnessing the success of my club and several of my individual players. When you teach someone the game and quickly realize the potential that they have as an athlete, that really gets you excited about coaching them. Then when the light bulb goes off and the player begins to realize and utilize their potential, that’s very rewarding to me as a coach. On a team level, we’ve been able to create a culture and atmosphere on our club to the point where young ladies want to join the rugby team and know that we play competitive rugby both in 15’s and 7’s. We are a club  looking to better ourselves on the field of play and in life as well. That has been the most rewarding thing for me… seeing my club and my girls progress forward as players and young adults.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. There are so many great and rewarding opportunities available to a person within the rugby community beyond playing. Many players retire from playing due to age, injury, or changing family dynamics. I feel a great, if not the best way, stay involved within the community is to become a referee, coach a side, or administrate at some level. If coaching seems too much or too intimidating at first, signing on as an assistant coach is a great way to get your feet wet. From an administration standpoint, being involved with your local senior side and serving on a committee or board is also a great way to get started before totally diving in. Just because you aren’t able to continue playing doesn’t mean you’re done serving and growing the game!

Forge Offers Free Summer Fitness & Touch

Senior Men’s Player Billy Gordon finds a lane against South Pittsburgh at the 2018 Steel City 7’s Tournament in Wexford, PA.

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – In accordance with the Pittsburgh Forge’s stated mission to offer rugby programming to all athletes in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, the club is pleased to announce free co-ed fitness and touch 7’s this summer for all interested persons over the age of 18.

The training and touch sessions will be held at the club’s game day pitch located at Phillip Murray Park just behind Arlington Elementary School near Pittsburgh’s Southside. The fitness training sessions will be rugby focused and begin around 6:15 pm every Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesdays, the training will be led by a member of our senior women’s side while on Thursday, the training will be led by a member of the senior men’s side. The training will run approximately 45 minutes to an hour until co-ed touch 7’s begins shortly after 7:00 pm.

Senior Women’s Player Brooke Gawlas carries the ball at the 2018 Steel City 7’s Tournament.

Last summer, the Forge was thrilled to average 50 – 60 participants for each session of co-ed touch 7’s. Often the club needed to set up multiple fields to accommodate 6 or so teams playing each night. In addition to being attended by current Forge players, the sessions were also attended by other area senior clubs, Forge men and women’s alumni, and a number of collegiate players home for the summer. Last season, the Forge charged $20 for all participants, but this season, thanks to the generosity of the club and the Pittsburgh Public School District, the Tuesday/Thursday fitness and touch sessions will be free of charge.

For any players interested in participating in Summer 7’s Tournaments this year, they should attend a touch session and get in touch with men and women’s side leadership. Both the men and women plan on attending a number of regional social tournaments including Rock ‘N Roll 7’s in Cleveland, Hall of Fam 7’s in Canton,  and of course, the Forge’s own tournament, Steel City 7’s, on July 20th. There will be a cost for each player planning to attend any of these tournaments and some additional training may be held the week leading up to each tournament.

For more information regarding the club’s free fitness and touch 7’s programming, or information regarding our Summer 7’s Tournament schedule, please contact the club or visit our Facebook page.