Morris Women’s Rugby was born in the spring of 1992. It all began when one woman, Trish McEntry, decided she still wanted to play rugby after her collegiate career was over and she started practicing with the men’s team. Trish recruited some friends to come out and try the sport. As everyone all knows and loves about rugby, if you make it through your first practice, you’re hooked…and they were. The first coach to mold the women’s team was Omar Rivera.
The Corporation and the Men’s team were very supportive of the women’s team and showed their support by helping the team get up and running. In 1992, the first Morris Women’s officers were elected: President : Julie Williams, Treasurer: Denise Rivera and Match Secretary: Deb Van Fleet. These three showed their leadership on and off the field for many years.
Beginning with only 5 players, Morris grew to a 7s squad, which eventually grew to a 10s team and today, a full 15s team. The first tournament attended by the Morris Women was the 1994 Ontario 7s tournament. They impressed the Canadians and themselves by winning the consolation bracket. It was a great tournament and brought the team to the realization that they could only get better, and they have.
Since 1992, the Morris Women have gone through many changes. Their first challenge was to form a full 15s squad. They were always known as a great 7s team, but never a good 15s side. With a lot of hard work by the founding officers and players, recruitment efforts have been constant and strong ever since. After contributing 8 wonderful years to the foundation of the Morris Women, Coach Omar decided he needed to step down from coaching the program. In 2000, Craig Levine (captain of the Old Blue RFC) was hired to coach the team. Due to a rugby injury in that same year, Donna Waliky stepped up to become the Assistant Coach. Under Coach Craig’s instruction, the team started moving away from being just a “social” team. The team decided to become more competitive and work towards a higher level of rugby.
In 2001, the Morris Women beat Monmouth to win the Metropolitan New York (Met NY) Division II Playoffs. The team was invited to the Spring 2002 Division I Playoffs in which they defeated Boston to gain the opportunity to play in the 2002 Sweet 16s National Championship held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Never before in Morris history had any of its programs gone to the National Division I Championship and the women were proud of this hard-earned accomplishment.
The team has continued to perform well in the league, placing second in Met NY Division II in 2004 and 2005, and third overall in the Northeast in 2005. The Morris Women continually performed well at large tournaments such as Pumpkinfest, Ruggerfest, and the Can-Am (Saranac) Tournament, and placed third in the social division of the 2005 Can-Am Tournament. The team still continues to participate in many of these tournaments, making their presence especially known at Can-Ams.
From 2005 through 2009, the Morris Women were coached by Kate Brennan, who had 10 years of rugby-playing experience. Coach Kate brought the women’s team to an excellent level of play and fitness through her dedication and creativity with drills and circuit training at her practice sessions. As part of her circuit training, she took it upon herself to make weighted lifting bars out of PVC piping and sand, gathered old tractor tires for squats and dead lifts, milk crates for jumping and pushups, brought her own collection of weight plates and a series of medicine balls to training sessions. These intense training sessions and each player’s commitment to her own fitness regimen helped the team complete an undefeated Fall 2007 season.
Coach Kate also coached the first Met NY U19 Girls select side team in the Spring 2007 season with some assistance from some of the current women’s players to help the game of rugby at the High School level. Since then, Coach Tom Feury and other coaches have assisted in running the U19 Girls rugby program. Several Morris players have had local and territorial select side experience at the collegiate and senior levels, including players on the championed Northeast Senior Select Side. There are also active referees, and several players that had coached Youth Flag Rugby teams in the summer.
In 2010, Coach Omar Rivera would return to coach the Women’s team as well as Coach Dawn Maffucci. In spite of great Fall seasons, the Morris Women would not qualify for the Division II Playoffs during 2008-2010.
Coach Donna Waliky returned as the head coach starting in 2011. In Fall 2011, the Met NY was undergoing structural changes and stipulated that top seeded teams had to play a match to qualify for the Northeast Rugby Union (NRU) Division II Playoffs. Having made their division’s second seed, the Morris Women fought hard but unfortunately lost against the Hartford Roses from Connecticut to not make the 2011 Playoffs.
Under club President Ashley Belline’s administration, the Morris Women’s 7s squad has grown from making club and social side appearances during the 2009-2011 summer tournaments to competing in qualifier and club tournaments in Summer 2012. After weeks of practice in the grueling heat and fighting through injuries, it was exciting for the Women’s hard work to pay off from both rugby practice and trainer-gym workouts. All Summer 2012, the team attended eight tournaments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York, placing 3rd or 4th in the majority of these tournaments. They secured the USA National 7s Championships third seed from the Northeast region to make a 7s Championship debut in San Francisco, CA in the beginning of August 2012. Five players were also invited to try out for the NRU All-Star 7s team, of which one Morris player was the youngest on the NRU All-Star 7s team to contribute to the All-Star 7s 2012 Championship win. The team also annually attends New York Thanksgiving 7s to end each fruitful year of rugby.
The Met NY underwent significant institutional changes in April 2012 to now be part of the larger Empire Rugby Football Union Geographic Union (Empire GU for short).Under Coach Donna, the team improved in strength and discipline to qualify for the NRU Division II Playoffs in Fall 2012 as part of the top seeds in the Empire GU.
The squad currently maintains a roster of 30 to 40 women and constantly seeks expansion and community involvement as the team rallies through three seasons of rugby (Spring, Summer, and Fall) during the year from March through November. As part of the Morris Rugby Family, the team volunteers for several local Morris county-based festivals and events such as the St. Francis annual Harvest Festival in Denville, NJ as well as the Big Brew Beer Festival in Morristown, NJ and many more volunteer initiatives.