Relatively few American students play rugby before college. For many of the men and women who pick up the sport at Princeton, the first game they watch also becomes the first one they compete in. Newcomers learn the basics, refine their skills, and eventually pass on what they’ve learned to the next crop of novices. The students also drive the program off the field, managing everything from scheduling to finances.


The 1931-32 Princeton men’s rugby team, top, and the 1981-82 women’s team. On April 9, alumni will celebrate 80 consecutive years of competition for the men and 30 consecutive years for the women. (Courtesy Bric-a-Brac)
It’s a cycle that has endured with remarkable consistency, and on April 9, alumni of the Tiger programs will celebrate that tradition by marking two anniversaries: 80 consecutive years of competition for the men’s squad, and 30 consecutive years for the women’s team.
The weekend also holds great importance for the current Princeton teams, which are slated to compete on the West Windsor Fields. Men’s rugby will vie for the Rickerson Cup at the New Jersey State Intercollegiate Championship April 9, while women’s rugby will host the Ivy League Tournament April 9-10.
Men’s rugby traveled to Southern California for a recent spring-break trip, and according to captain Zak Deschaine ’11, the chance to focus on rugby for a week paid dividends. It also gave West Coast alumni a rare opportunity to catch Princeton in action.
“We played Loyola Marymount while in Los Angeles on tour, and we must have had 20 or 30 alumni show up,” Deschaine said. “It’s really a cool thing to see. … It’s something special to be a part of.”
In the first four years of the New Jersey State Intercollegiate Championship, Princeton has captured the Rickerson Cup three times, including last season, when the Tigers edged William Paterson in the final. Deschaine expects William Paterson to be a team to watch this year as well.
The women’s rugby team, which toured Ireland during spring break, will host the first Ivy League Tournament in three years (regional scheduling commitments have hampered the event).
Lauren Rhode ’12, who shares Princeton captain duties with Angela Yue ’11, said that Princeton has shown progress this year, thanks in part to a strong group of new additions in the fall. “They’re still learning the game, but they’re really becoming the core of our team,” she said. In addition to the spring season, the Tigers will field a team at the USA Sevens Women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia June 4-5.
In the Ivy event, Rhode expects that Brown, ranked third in the nation, will be the team to beat. Dartmouth and Cornell also have earned votes in the national rankings. While Princeton may be starting at the middle of the Ivy pack, Rhode said, “We’re looking forward to the chance to prove ourselves.”
Alumni interested in Princeton rugby’s reservation-only dinner event at the Nassau Inn April 9 may contact Michael Paley ’96 ( before April 4.