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Crosslake teen becomes college Rugby rookie

CROSSLAKE – When Haley Monson’s college roommate at Bemidji State University last winter asked her to try out for the girls’ club rugby team, since they had a few openings, Monson figured, “Why not?”

The Crosslake teen, then a BSU freshman, didn’t let the fact that she knew nothing about the game stop her.

“At first I thought, ‘What kind of sport is this? You hit each other without gear?,’” Monson, a 2011 Pequot Lakes High School (PLHS) graduate, said with a laugh. “I didn’t really know what it was. It’s a game you can’t explain. You just have to figure it out. It’s like organized chaos. I feel like it’s a bunch of sports put together.”

Monson, 19, played ice hockey throughout high school, starting when she was in second grade. She also was on the PLHS softball team and played volleyball. Last year she missed being involved in a team sport and felt she needed a sport to motivate her to stay physically active. What better way to do that than play rugby, she thought.

Monson discovered she really liked the game – more than she thought she would. It can be a rough game, especially since no one wears any padding. The closest thing to padding is what’s called a “scrum cap,” a protective headgear worn by players so their ears “don’t get ripped off,” Monson said. She injured her knee in her last rugby tournament in April.

“I’ve been hit once or twice really hard but my body has learned to take a hit,” Monson said.

She said in rugby, there is no such thing as personal space on the field. Teammates and competitors are all over each other trying to get the ball away. She said she and her teammates wear Spandex shorts underneath their uniforms because people have been known to lose their shorts during a match.

Her team scrimmaged at the Eelpout Festival in Walker in February. Monson said she fell a lot on the ice but they had a good time. She traveled to Nebraska and St. Cloud to play in rugby tournaments last spring.

While Monson wasn’t on the team last fall, she plans to be this fall. She said her rugby skills are improving, as is her knowledge of the game.

“I think I did OK,” Monson said. “There are a lot of things I need to work on.”

She said since rugby involves a lot of running, she started running this summer to get in shape for the upcoming rugby season.

Monson is a biology major at BSU. She plans to go on to graduate school to become a physical therapist.