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10 April 2011

Rugby team developing fast

Courtesy Michelle Horevitz

Running across the rugby field, University of Miami senior Michelle Horevitz lines up her target and makes a bone-crushing tackle on an opponent as her father proudly watches from the sideline.

Horevitz, president of UM’s women’s  rugby team, never imagined she would be playing a high-contact sport like rugby. Besides softball, which she quit at 11 years old, she did not play any sports while growing up. But she did have rugby in her blood- her father played since he was 15 and her brother plays currently. She never thought she would follow in their footsteps.

That changed when she came to UM. As a freshman, Horevitz and her dorm neighbor decided to join a “bad-ass” sport.  They picked rugby, though her friend later quit.

She has played for four out of the five years that the team has existed.

“After my first game against UCF, I felt amazing,” Horevitz recalled. “Even though we lost, I could not believe I just did that.”

Now, nearly four years have passed since that game. Horevitz has served as the club sport’s president for the last three years. During that time the team has steadily improved and the women are coming off their first winning season. Beth Schlaerth, the women’s rugby coach, has played a key role in the club’s development, keeping them organized and focused.

Horevitz says her skills have improved immensely.

“If you love it, you get good at it,” she said.

She has also been selected to play for the “Under 23 All-Stars” and the Gypsy travel rugby team club.

Horevitz attributes part of her success to the support and advice from her father. They have bonded over the game and talk about it nonstop. He attends most of the games and “he is definitely coach dad,” Horevitz said.

Horevitz has put in a lot of effort to make the rugby team what it is now. She will be graduating this spring with a BA in economics. Even though this will end her career as a UM rugby player, it will not stop her from playing the sport she now loves.

“Rugby is all I think about; I even applied for a job for the USA Rugby,” Horevitz said.

Her love for rugby is contagious, so much so that one player owes her decision to come to this university to Horevitz and the rugby team.

Feli Massa, now one of the co-captains of the team, transferred from London and looked for schools that had rugby teams. She emailed Horevitz about the UM team and decided to come to Coral Gables based on Horevitz’s e-mails.

“Michelle helped me a lot; I am very shy and never spoke for a whole year,” Massa said. “Michelle approached me and announced that we will become friends and we have been friends ever since.”

Rugby has changed Horevitz’s life. She has formed life-long friendships and might even build a career out of rugby.

“Rugby is a worldwide frat that has allowed me to meet amazing people and travel all over the U.S.,” Horevitz said.

If you want to meet Horevitz and the rest of the team, practices are Monday and Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Rosa Orihuela may be contacted at rorihuela@themiamihurricane.com

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