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Bonnies hold off UW-Platteville, 22-17, to claim small-college rugby national title

Dec 03, 2023

2023 National Champion BonniesThey simply wouldn’t be denied.

Fighting off exhaustion after 157 minutes of physical play in just over 24 hours, St. Bonaventure patiently ground out the game’s final three minutes with a series of pick-and-go plays that gained them virtually nothing.

Except for a national title.

The Bonnies (12-0), ranked No. 2 in the latest NCR small-college poll, held off Wisconsin-Platteville, 22-17, Sunday afternoon at SaberCats Stadium in Houston to claim the small-college Fall 15s Collegiate Rugby Championship. The Bonnies defeated top-ranked Endicott on Saturday, 22-10, in a national semifinal.

All-American Makenna Ramsey scored three times, giving her 44 tries on the season, to lead the Bonnies.

“We’re never going to forget this moment,” Ramsey said. “We’ve been working toward this all season and to think we were able to accomplish it is just surreal.”

Surreal isn’t an exaggeration.

When she was hired as coach in March 2022, Meredith Pyke inherited only nine players and had to fill the roster out with campus recruits and incoming freshmen. Just one recruiting class later, she’s orchestrated a national championship.

“Based on where we were when I started, I can’t believe it. But I believed in this team’s heart and all of the effort they put in to get here,” Pyke said.

With the Pioneers in possession and threatening to tie the game late, Jaylei Wagstaff made a strong tackle and freshman Katie Paterson stole the ball in the ruck. From there, the players didn’t need to be told what to do.

“They just started yelling ‘Possession! Possession! Possession!’” Pyke said. “Incredibly, I didn’t have to say a thing. Their rugby IQ has just grown so much. When our fans started counting the clock down, I got goosebumps. Their support really helped push us through.”

MVP Makenna RamseyRamsey, a graduate student from Syracuse, opened the scoring nine minutes into the game off a pass from Ashlee Reid, but the Pioneers scored twice over a five-minute period midway through the first half to take a 10-5 lead. It was the first time the Bonnies had trailed in their four playoff games.

But Kaylee Vincent, a grad student from Jamestown, bulldozed her way to the try zone with defenders draped all over her with four minutes left in the half. Sophomore Kyla Nentarz’s kick conversion from a tough angle gave the Bonnies a 12-10 lead.

Ramsey, who was named tournament MVP, then extended the Bonnies lead to 17-10 on the play of the game just four minutes into the second half.

After a Platteville penalty, Ramsey quick-tapped the ball to herself, stiff-armed one tackler, and broke two more tackles to score from 22 yards out. Ramsey scored again on a pass from Nentarz with 15 minutes left.

The Pioneers cut it to 22-17 with 10 minutes to play, but the Bonnies’ staunch defense didn’t allow Platteville near the try zone for the remainder of the match.

Long, punishing runs up the middle from senior Abbey Beres helped flipped the field twice in the second half to give the Bonnies some needed breathing room, and freshman Natalie Lamar once again made a number of critical open-field tackles to thwart Platteville’s momentum. She was named the team’s Heart and Soul winner for her tournament play.

“To have our freshmen step up and play the way they did, Natalie and Mia (Popp) and Katie and Olivia (Reeves), in a national title game just blew me away,” Pyke said.

The Bonnies won despite losing senior co-captain Kaylee Middaugh to a quad injury in the semifinal.

“Kaylee is so integral to our offense, but especially our defense, so it was heartbreaking not only for her but the team,” Pyke said. “But Mia played the full game in her place and was excellent. It’s a true testament to the culture we’ve built and the belief they have in each other.”


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. Out of 167 regional universities in the North, St. Bonaventure was ranked #6 for value and #14 for innovation by U.S. News and World Report (2024).