Make some room, Minks: sophomore brings women’s rugby to campus

Juliana Lima, ’20, created club to share her love of the sport and play competitively with a team of her own

Tanner Smith

While our moms’ warnings to not try everything we see on television are usually sound advice, Juliana Lima, ’20, has found a true passion by bucking that piece of conventional wisdom: rugby.

“It was a sport I accidentally came across on TV,” Lima said, “and I thought it looked really interesting. I wanted to jump right in.”

Lima practiced with the popular W&L men’s “Screaming Minks” rugby team and VMI’s women’s rugby team last year as a first-year, but was not able to play in any games due to her gender and W&L affiliation, respectively.

She decided to take matters into her own hands to remove those barriers, forming the school’s first ever women’s rugby club this year.

“I liked going out and practicing with the guys, but I would like to go play games as well,” Lima said. “I thought that there would have to be enough people on campus that would want to try it. Once they try it, I feel like they would fall in love with it.”

Lima had a booth at the Activities’ Fair this year, and was excited that she had roughly 30 girls demonstrate interest in playing. Since the game can be played with either seven or 15 players on each side, she is excited about the prospect of being able to scrimmage or play some games this year.

Those games could potentially be played at the Boneyard, a field behind the Liberty Hall Ruins, but logistics are still in the works. Uncertainties aside, Lima has already started trying to make plans for the year.

“I have talked with Ray Ellington [director of Campus Recreation] and with the VMI girls,” Lima said. “The VMI girls are shooting for games in the spring if possible. They have 15 upperclassmen and they said that we are welcome to play with them. We might try to play against Virginia Tech and do a clinic with JMU.”

Lima played soccer in high school, which she thinks gave her some level of preparation to play rugby. But she said she thinks the sport is unique.

“I don’t really have anything to compare it to,” Lima said. “It was somewhat like my soccer practices in the level of intensity. It was a collective, friendly atmosphere; everyone enjoys being out there, just having a good time playing a sport.”

While her soccer experience gave her the necessary footwork and conditioning needed to play rugby, she was completely unprepared for one part of the game.

“I had zero abilities of catching,” Lima said. “I only had to use my feet for soccer so that was a big challenge. The first practice one of the guys threw a ball and told me to just ‘throw it back’, which was tough.”

Going forward for this year, Lima wants to inspire interest in the fall and hopefully play games and advance the program in the spring. Two years ago, none of this would have seemed plausible to her.

“This is pretty crazy,” Lima said. “I didn’t really expect this when I first saw it, but once I started playing I knew I wanted to pursue it. “