Women’s Rugby Makes Its Way Into Palm Beach County

The Lady Wizards, Sharks and Ruckus pose for a group shot after a match.

On Saturday, June 3, the Wellington Wizards joined forces with two other rugby clubs in South Florida to compete in the Surfin’ Sevens rugby tournament. The tournament hosted both men’s and women’s divisions.

This is the first year that the Wizards are fielding a women’s high school team. The tournament served as an opportunity to put the players on the field to compete, many for the first time. The Wizards combined players with the Jupiter Sharks and the Fort Lauderdale Ruckus to compete against each other in the tournament. Rugby Sevens is a faster-paced style of rugby, with only seven to a side, rather than the typical 15.

Lady Wizards coach Kaelin Pukke was excited to be competing at the Lake Lytal Park facilities for the event, mainly because last year there was only one women’s rugby team in the entire state, and now that number has grown to six.

“I think it’s great, but starting at this level, it’s kind of amazing to see what’s going to become the next generation of rugby players,” she said. “Within one year, the competition level is getting up there.”

Most of the women’s teams currently have an average of 12 players, and eventually plan to raise those numbers high enough to field a team of 15. First-year player and Palm Beach Central High School rising senior Katrina DeSorbo believes that she can spread the popularity of rugby in her school.

DeSorbo is the Broncos flag football quarterback and started playing rugby to stay in shape for football. “Rugby is very competitive, and something you don’t see a lot of girls playing in,” she said.

DeSorbo explained the differences between flag football and rugby. “It’s very different, it’s very high-speed, and you have to know what’s going on at all times,” she said. “There’s a lot of scholarship opportunities for females.”

The Surfin’ Sevens tournament was DeSorbo’s first official rugby competition, and she seemed very comfortable on the field. She plans to continue to play rugby, believing it will improve her flag football game. “I think I’m going to get faster and stronger, and it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

She plans on talking up the sport of rugby in the hallways of the school in the fall. DeSorbo added that she would play high school rugby in a heartbeat if it was affiliated with the school athletic program.

The popularity of the sport has trickled down to the middle-school ages. “We have a couple of girls who play on the junior juice team, and that is allowed to be co-ed,” Pukke said. “The skills are increasing tremendously, so I’m pretty excited for next year, to grow the game.”

The Lady Wizards will compete through the summer season with the other clubs that have fielded women’s teams, Pukke said.

ABOVE: The Lady Wizards, Sharks and Ruckus gather after a match.