Rugby rebuild starts with unity

Castleton women’s rugby player Natalie Simecek runs with the ball.

Castleton’s women’s rugby team had a loaded roster last year with 21 players. 

Playmakers like Aubrey Tetlow, Katelynn Dunn and Hannah Coupas ran up the scores last year dominating the offensive attack. Dunn was named to the All-National Intercollegiate Rugby Association team for her speed and ball-carrying ability. 

Ginny House was also recognized as an honorable mention for being a force in scrums and for her lockdown defense.

Things are a little different in 2023.

This year’s team is basically a clean slate, with only four returning players and not many new players. After some players left the team before the season even started, the team was left unable to compete in LEC competition this year. With a small squad, the team is only competing in 7-on-7 competition compared to the regular 15-member teams.

Also new is head coach Erin LaMountain to lead the team this year.

LaMountain’s background in rugby started at Castleton, where she played for two years while also playing on the women’s soccer team. After she graduated, she was in and out of the rugby scene until she started helping referee games with Sandy Stragneil.

Stragneil was a men’s and women’s club rugby coach for Castleton for decades and then started to sideline referee at Castleton’s rugby matches. LaMountain was asked by Stragneil to help and the two have worked together for the past six years refereeing games. 

The team poses for a picture.

In 2021, she began helping former head coach Denver Divens as an assistant. She gained more experience as a coach, teaching the players about her knowledge of the game.

LaMountain’s biggest goal this year is for the team to play as one unit. 

“It’s something that has been hard over the last couple of years. You have to trust your team in order to create unity,” LaMountain said.

The team has started to do extra conditioning work on the field during the week and scheduling study hall sessions to help each other with their coursework. The team has a variety of students, from first-years to graduate students.

Sophomore transfer Emily Coates has already felt that presence being in a new environment. The prop player started playing at her old school and fell in love with the game immediately. Learning some skills from a former U.S. Olympic rugby player, she was committed to becoming a better player, she said.

Rugby has given her many new friends along with the motivation to excel in her schoolwork. Her goals for the team are like LaMountain’s; to build each other as a team.

“I hope that we can all work harder together, expand our skillset and win games this year,” Coates says.

Another nontraditional player from Norway, sophomore Emile Stene, came to Castleton as part of their ski team. She emailed Coach LaMountain and asked to join the team this semester and has been learning the game over the past few weeks. She was eager to try rugby since it was a tough sport and she said wanted to make the most of her college experience. 

Stene said she likes how welcoming upperclassmen have been to her and the others. 

“They’ve done a good job making the new members feel a part of the team straight away. They are big assets in games creating plays and showing us different moves while we play,” she said.

The team faced off against New England College for their home opener losing 2-1 in the series. Saidi St. Andrews had herself a day scoring three times during the three-game series. 

She scored the Spartans only points in game one losing 15-5. She would then score twice in game two along with Alexis MacLeod and Sarah Deshamp to win 20-5. 

Maddie Reynolds would score within the first 20 seconds of game three, but the team would let up three unanswered scores to fall 17-5.

LaMountain said she is always looking for people interested in learning the sport. If you want to be a part or help the women’s rugby team, email LaMountain for more information on how to join at 

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