There are many reasons for a young man or woman to attend the United States Military Academy.

Rugby is not one of them.

But Waterville native Olivia Lopes discovered rugby before beginning her classes as a freshman.

“We have this thing called campus athletics during our summer training at West Point,” Lopes said. “You can basically try any sport you want.”

Lopes’ father is a colonel in the Army National Guard, and she says she was pretty much sold on West Point after spending a week there before her junior year at Waterville Senior High School. She’s studying life sciences, with the intention of going pre-med.

At Waterville, Lopes played field hockey and was also one of the top tennis players in the state.

“I was a tennis player for a really long time,” she said. “You don’t get the same team atmosphere on a tennis team. (With rugby) it’s a wonderful team to play on, and I just like that aspect of it.”

Lopes admits it’s a little tougher when her friends who haven’t seen a rugby match ask her about the sport.

“People do ask, and it’s not something that can be easily explained without seeing it,” Lopes said. “Some people try to compare it to football. It’s kind of like football, but the ball is never out of play.”

There are 40 players listed on the roster on the official Army sports website. Lopes said she is on the “B” team, which will only have games if the other team has enough players. Otherwise, there’s not often a call to action for a substitute.

“The starting 15 play, and unless they get hurt, they won’t get taken off the field,” Lopes said.

Still, Lopes has played enough to know what that feels like the next morning.

“You come out of games, and you don’t really feel it right away,” Lopes said. “But when the adrenaline wears off, you’re like, ‘Wow, I have bruises everywhere!’ The day after a game is very rough, because you do get quite beat up.”

Army plays Quinnipiac at noon, Friday in the “Sweet Sixteen” of the American Collegiate Rugby Association tournament. Lopes would like to stick with rugby in the coming years.

“I’m sure I’ll still play tennis occasionally, but the tennis team (here) is very, very competitive,” Lopes said. “Honestly, I think rugby is where I’ll be for a while. It’s a huge transition, but I really enjoy it. It’s a good choice.”

• • •

The University of Maine at Augusta women play 13 basketball games before their holiday break. The first two were this weekend, as the Moose defeated Bristol Community College, 81-55, and Quinsigamond Community College, 59-32.

“I think we’re off to a good start,” UMA coach Jennifer Laney said. “We were missing a couple starters. It was the first time they played together, and they were cohesive.”

Richmond graduate Jamie Plummer was ill and came off the bench both games, but still averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds. Freshman Kori Coro, a Forest Hills grad who was also projected as a starter, sat out both games with a knee injury.

“Both of them should be back by next week,” Laney said.

UMA finished 15-12 last season, and reached the USCAA national tournament. Laney said the Moose are smaller this year, but make up for that with their speed.

One of the shortest players on the roster is 5-foot-5 Carmen Bragg, who played all 40 minutes in both games this weekend and averaged 18 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Another freshman, Monmouth’s Kylie Kemp, is averaging 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.

On Wednesday, UMA hosts Central Maine Community College, last year’s Yankee Small College Conference champions. CMCC defeated the Moose three times last season, by an average of 35.3 points. CMCC”s top scorer is Mt. Blue grad Gabby Foy, who is averaging 17.8 points per night.

“CM always brings the pressure,” Laney said. “I just want to say that we continued to break the press, and we made it our game — we didn’t let them determine our pace.”

• • •

A number of local field hockey players will be extending their seasons this week as their teams compete in national tournaments. Messalonskee grad Kristy Bernatchez is a starter for the University of North Carolina, which earned the No. 1 overall seed in the Division I tournament and will host either Richmond or Liberty at 11 a.m., Saturday. Bernatchez’ sister, Katie, is a starter at Boston University, and the Terriers play at No. 4 overall seed Syracuse on Saturday. North Carolina and BU would face each other if both teams win twice and reach the final four.

Simmons won two games to win the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament, and Waterville grad Jenna Gagnon was named tournament MVP. Gagnon, a sophomore, has seven goals and four assists over her last seven games for Simmons.

The Sharks open the tournament on the road at 6 p.m., Wednesday against the University of New England. Messalonskee grad Haley Pelletier has played in all 21 games for UNE this season. The winner of the Simmons-UNE game faces Middlebury, ranked No. 2 in the country, on Saturday.

Maranacook grad Kayla Parker plays for Mt. Holyoke, which is ranked No. 13 in the nation. Parker has played in all 19 games this fall, and started 15. The Lions host Husson at 4 p.m., Wednesday, in South Hadley, Mass., with the winner facing No. 3-ranked Bowdoin on Saturday. Husson has three local players: Taylor Lovley (eight goals, six assists) from Nokomis, Taylor Shaw (five goals, two assists) from Nokomis, and Mikayla Toth (one goal, four assists, one defensive save) of Skowhegan.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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