It is the kind of “rebuilding” year a lot of other teams would envy.

Photo Credit: Patti Mintz

The Cougars battle the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Photo Credit: Patti Mintz

The College of Charleston Women’s Rugby club team has finished the 2015 spring season ranked #5 in the nation.

Not bad when you consider the team lost five starters from last year’s squad due to graduation.

The season featured an impressive list of wins. The club finished second in the Carolina Division, with victories over club teams from the University of South Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Greensboro, Appalachian State and Elon.   The second-place finish was good enough to earn the club team an at-large bid to the national playoffs.

That was the easy part.

The College's women’s rugby club finished the 2015 spring season ranked #5 in the nation. Photo Credit: Patti Mintz

The College’s women’s rugby club finished the 2015 spring season ranked #5 in the nation. Photo Credit: Patti Mintz

In order to get to the playoff site in Pittsburgh, the team not only had to train to play the best teams in the nation, but they also had to find money to get to there.

Every player on the team was expected to give everything for the next two weeks – running the Ravenel Bridge at least twice a week, committing to practice, all while having to fund-raise,” says outgoing club president Mary Heard.

Support came in bits and pieces. College of Charleston Campus Recreation Services gave $2,000 to the team. The City of Charleston’s rugby team donated $200. The Palmetto Rugby Union gave them $500. A team car wash netted $600 and online pleas brought in $8,000.

The good news was that they earned enough money to make the trip. The bad news was that they would face last year’s national champions, University of Mary Washington, in the first round.

No sweat.

The College of Charleston’s aggressive offense and tenacious defense upended the national champs by a score of 13-5 and advanced the team to the Elite Eight.

But the grueling, physically draining victory over UMW and the lengthy travel to Pittsburgh took its toll on the team. The team eventually lost to Salisbury College in the next round.

Despite the disappointing loss, the team and coaches Kristin Graziano and Butch Setser still made College of Charleston history. They are the first College of Charleston rugby team to finish the season ranked as one of the top five programs nationwide.