The Atomic Sisters – a local Women’s Rugby Club – qualified for the Division II final four of the US Rugby Club Nationals in St. Louis. The Atomic Sisters will play their first game on June 3 Gabriella Rivera, team captain, said.
The team has spent the past couple of weeks holding fundraisers to offset travel costs for their players. The team hasn’t qualified for the final four in 12 years, Rivera said, and they are excited to represent their community.
“We've had two car washes over the last two weekends and we were kind of blown away by the amount of support we got,” Rivera said. “We got $1800 the first car wash and just over $2000 this last car wash. It's been great for us, the support from those fundraisers. And then we've also had a lot of very generous donations.”
At the team’s Wednesday night practice, two days before their first game, Rivera said that they were a little over halfway to their $20,000 goal that would cover hotels, rental cars and flights for the team.
“At this point we're just trying to not burden players to get there. This is a great experience for everyone. We want everyone to be able to travel without completely bankrupting themselves,” Rivera said.
Although the team welcomes players of all experience levels, Rivera said that it has functioned as an Alumni team for the University of New Mexico – fostering an intimacy within the team that is often only found after years of playing together.
“We're also unique in that, most of these players, (we) have been playing together for 8 to 10 years. There's a good group of us, like the core group that has been playing together for so long that we have a really unique camaraderie on the team,” Rivera said.
The team is not only successful because of the years of experience they have, team member Amber Glasrud said, but also the passion that old and new players display together. Glasrud has been playing for the Atomic Sisters for the past five years and is a former member of the UNM club team.
“To see the growth with the people that have been playing for a long time, and then see how much that knowledge helps new people grow alongside those people that already know what they're doing,” Glasrud said.
Glasrud took time off from the sport between playing for UNM and joining the Atomic Sisters, but said that playing rugby is not something they are going to give up any time soon.
“Burnout, school and depression – I just needed some time for myself. (But) it was the sport that I felt the most at home at, so I wanted to make sure that I gave it an actual goodbye, But I'm not going to stop playing until I can't walk anymore because I love it so much,” Glasrud said.
Nationals are important, Rivera said, so that she can compete with the team they have built over the past couple of years and represent New Mexico.
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“I think we're all excited to compete with this team. This is a really great team that we've built here and the National Championships is not an opportunity that comes around every day,” Rivera said. “We're just looking forward to being there among the best teams in the country and showing what New Mexico rugby can do, and what the Atomic Sisters can do.”
The Atomic Sisters play against the Tennessee Knoxville Minx for their first game on Friday. Knoxville Minx came in second at this previous year’s National Championship. Although the team is faced with tough competitors, Rivera is confident in her team's ability.
“We know they're gonna be a very solid team – a very hungry team – since they've been so close last year. It's gonna be a really tough game, but it's absolutely something we can win,” Rivera said.
Addison Key is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @addisonkey11
Addison Key is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo and served as the Summer 2023 culture editor. She can be reached on Twitter @addisonkey11.