By BRIAN JENNINGS
Three student athletes from Southington’s girls rugby club inked their names on National Letters of Intent in the high school’s library on Thursday, May 19 to continue their athletic careers at Division I colleges next fall.
Allie Rinaldi started playing rugby her sophomore year and was named team captain as a junior. Rinaldi is a scrum-half and fly-half for Southington. She will be attending Sacred Heart University and playing for the Pioneers.
Sacred Heart announced the elevation of the sport’s status to the varsity level in the fall of 2014. The program began varsity competition in the fall of 2015.
“The coach of Sacred Heart [Michelle Reed] is pretty involved with Connecticut Rugby, and she’s been at a couple of our practices,” said Rinaldi. “She introduced herself to us, and I built that connection with her. The more I looked into the school, the more I liked it. It’s a beautiful campus with great academics.”
Rinaldi plans to study American history and hopes to be a history teacher.
Daria Gagnon started her rugby career as a freshman and has played a variety of positions on the pitch over the years, being named team captain as a junior. Gagnon was one of two females in Connecticut to be invited to the national U-19 Stars and Stripes Camp last summer. Gagnon plays prop and eight-man.
She will be attending American International College in Springfield, Mass. to play for the Yellow Jackets.
“I grew a connection to the community and rugby team,” said Gagnon. “As soon as I stepped onto that campus, professors and the team welcomed me. My coach [Dimitri Efthimiou] welcomed me as well. I also loved the classroom setup.”
Gagnon plans to study criminal justice.
Kasey Newman first joined Southington’s rugby club in her sophomore year and immediately became a starter on the varsity squad. She is currently one of the top scorers on the team, playing outside center for Southington. She will be joining Rinaldi at Sacred Heart to play for the Pioneers as well.
“Even when the coach was talking to me in an interview about it, she [Reed] asked me if I liked the school academically. And I feel like that’s just as important if you wanted to go there for a sport. Everything just fit and fell into place. I could see myself going there. It’s not too big or too far away.”
Newman plans to study physical therapy.
Southington coach Nick Vargas said that his players’ choices were a perfect fit.
“AIC has a really good, established program,” the coach said. “It’s at a pretty high level, and I think that Daria will be a real good fit. Their coach [Efthimiou] has built on players that are really similar to her type of skill set.”
Vargas said that Rinaldi and Newman will have an opportunity to help a program start from the ground up at Sacred Heart.
“They’ll fit in well because they’ve been playing for the last three years,” the coach said. “And even though it’s not really too long, they have a really high rugby IQ. That coach [Reed] is really excited to have them on the field, not just because of their ability, but also for their understanding of the game.”
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