When Salisbury shows up to Championship Weekend you’ll recognize their name. You’ll recognize the maroon and gold strip. You’ll see a suffocating defense. But Salisbury prop and team president Sophie Clendenin wants you to listen in.
“Listen to us on the pitch, it’s constant positivity,” said Clendenin. “That’s what makes this team different, no blaming, we’re a team.”
For the third time in four years, the Salisbury University women’s rugby club is headed to the D2 Spring Championship Weekend. Team president Sophie Clendenin has seen the shift in team energy, but not in the team’s mission.
“People everywhere might not know where Salisbury is, but when we show up to weekends like this… people know who we are.”
Clendenin always had a fascination with rugby but didn’t have a chance to play in high school. As a freshman she ran into some girls at the activities fair and after a team bonfire, she had fallen in love with the sport. Even more, she had fallen in love with the team mission and culture.
“When I showed up as a freshman I wasn’t all that competitive, but I found a group of girls I wanted to be a part of,” said Clendenin. “I also found a team that wanted to prove that ‘hey we’re not some small program, we’re a powerhouse in college rugby.”’
Four years later Clendenin has come full circle and is loving the new players and watching them embrace the team’s mission.
“One of my favorite things is watching the freshman and new players as we get into playoff time,” said Clendenin. “The playoffs get intense, so there’s more communication, constantly texting, constant positivity buzzing around the team.”
Texts are for when the team’s not together. They practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have morning workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We get the conditioning done in the mornings so when we head out to practice it’s all skills, drills and team run-through,” said Clendenin.
The practice time is paying off. The Sea Gulls have been blanking teams.
“I knew this team was special when we went on the road for the playoffs and nobody put a point on us.”
39-0 over George Washington.
35-0 over Mary Washington.
“Our defense is something we pride ourselves in,” said Clendenin. “We know how to score, we know how run the offense, but defense is where we put our time and it’s been our best asset.”
Salisbury is going up against an Eckerd College squad that had to play (and win) a regional match and quarterfinal on back-to-back days to reach the semifinals.
Salisbury will have to win the semifinal over Eckerd on Saturday for a shot at the Spring Championship final on Sunday. Standing in their way is Eckerd College, Fresno State University, and 2018’s Spring Champion Tulane.