By KEVIN ROBERTS
Finding a college that offers a Division I NCAA scholarship in women’s rugby is not easy. Southington senior girls rugby club team standouts Rhiannon Simione and Lynsey Danko did find that school, and it happens to be the same one.
Simione and Danko both signed national letters of intent to play at Long Island University-Post during a ceremony last month in the Southington High School library. A few days later, Simione and Danko led the Lady Knights into their second straight state championship game. It wasn’t the result Southington wanted, but there’s still the 2018 title to look back on with pride.
“It’s definitely exciting coming off of the win last year, but we’ve definitely had to work more as a team this year since we lost people last year, there’s new people this year,” Danko said.
“It’s a lot of work,” Simione added.
A lot of work in a sport that doesn’t get a ton of recognition. Girls rugby is a club sport and doesn’t receive funding from the athletics department. Despite that, both Danko and Simione knew they wanted to play in college.
“I think since freshman year I knew I wanted to keep playing rugby,” Danko said.
“Freshman year in high school,” Simione said when asked when she knew she wanted to compete at the next level. “It’s not that big, there’s not a lot of youth programs like baseball, where you can play when you’re literally two feet high.”
Simione and Danko agreed that there’s a learning curve for rugby, but both worked hard and managed to stand out. Coach Nicholas Vargas said Simione has been a “central figure with the Southington girls rugby team.” A four-year starter, team captain and multiple state all-star, she was a big part of the 2018 championship team.
“Rhiannon is a true leader both on and off the field, and her dedication to the team is unparalleled,” Vargas said. “She will undoubtedly have an excellent college career playing for Long Island University.”
Vargas said Danko had a fantastic career at Southington, including her efforts in helping the team win the 2018 state championship.
“She serves as a great role model for her peers and she will be a great addition to the Long Island University women’s rugby team next year,” Vargas said. “Her work ethic and composure set her head and shoulders above the rest and she never ceased to amaze the coaching staff.”
Simione and Danko were just happy to find a place to keep playing a sport they love.
“It’s nice, because it’s not that big in high school,” Simione said. “It’s a good way to continue playing.”
“Everything just kind of fell into place, especially with both of us going together, because we know how each other players, stuff like that,” Danko said. “We definitely got lucky on that one.”
Both said that they love the LIU-Post campus. Simione will be concentrating on criminal justice while Danko will be taking up health and physical education.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com