Lady Cavaliers rugby team empowers female athletes at Amador Valley


Photo provided by Lian Noble

Eight Amador students play in the Lady Cavaliers Pleasanton team.

Olivia Vukman, AVT Page Editor and AVTV Segments Editor

The Lady Cavaliers are an all-girls rugby team with players from Pleasanton, Dublin, Stockton, and Alameda County. They are nationally ranked for middle and high school teams, playing all year-round travel rugby that has a separate summer season. Many of their players are students at Amador.

“I used to play soccer. But they told me I was too aggressive, so my dad recommended me to play rugby,” said Aidan Bursey (‘22). 

Rugby is a very similar sport to American football with a few main differences. Rugby is less common in the United States and is not offered at Amador. However, the athleticism and skill required is equally important.

“I’ve played a few sports, like just trying things, and it was fun, but I never really found a home until rugby. Everyone just accepted me and was really nice,” said Lian Noble (‘22).

Rugby players receive no protection, padding, or helmets despite full-contact tackling being a main part of the game. Mouthguards are the only thing athletes can wear to protect them from hits to the jaw. 

“The toughest part about rugby is being confident enough to go into the tackle,” said Jiya Sandhu (‘23). 

Contrary to football turfs, rugby players jump, dive, and catch on real grass rugby fields, which are just over 100 yards long. The balls used in rugby are flatter than American footballs, but equal in length. After a tackle, there are no breaks or regrouping. The ball continues to fly around the field and hopefully toward the touch zone in hopes of scoring a point.

“The main difference I would say is that there’s no stoppage in play,” said Bursey. “Constant tackling comes with a lot of injuries.”

The Lady Cavaliers gather in a group huddle at their most recent tournament in El Cerrito, CA. (Photo provided by Lian Noble)

The Lady Cavaliers high school team recently attended Utah and Los Angeles for 7s tournaments, resulting in both all-or-nothing victories. All-or-nothing victories are often the style of rugby tournaments, where no team is rewarded with a second chance or redemption arc. After one loss, they are sent home. 7s tournaments have 7-on-7 games, with many of the players swapping out between the two 40-minute periods. This is very different from 5-on-5 football games, which only have 4 fifteen-minute quarters and stoppage in play for every down. 

“I like the environment and how it’s so aggressive. But outside of the actual game, everyone is so nice,” said Noble. “We’re very inclusive—anyone can play.”

The team is made up of 20 girls between the ages of 14 and 18. Being together for tournaments, living in the same area, and being in high school, these girls are a close-knit team.

“I would encourage anyone to join. There’s small people, there’s big people,anyone can join,” said Bursey.

 A wide range of abilities are displayed in rugby with various positions like linebackers and wide receivers. Many colleges and universities in the United States have women’s rugby as a sport, including Brown University, Chico State, the University of Alabama, and BYU.

“I’m hoping to play rugby in college because it is something I am very passionate about,” said Sandhu

The Lady Cavaliers’ regular season games and tournaments are streamed and can be found on FOX Sports.