COLUMBIA — Few situations will force a rugby player off the field against her will — but being pregnant is one of them.
Kansas State (0-2) at Mid-Mo Rugby (0-3)
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday (rain or shine)
WHERE: Rock Quarry Park
For more information about the Mid-Mo Women's Rugby Club, go to the website, midmorugby.org/. The club practices from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday at Rock Quarry Park.
Chuelo Arias, who has been playing rugby for eight years, stood on the sidelines during her team's evening practice Monday at Rock Quarry Park. Wearing a baggy gray T-shirt, she watched her teammates locked in a scrummage, rugby's version of a scrimmage.
Asked why she was not playing, Arias patted her belly and smiled. She is about six months pregnant.
Several of the players have children, she said. The kids attend games and watch their mothers run and tackle.
"We haven't had any major injuries yet," she said, only some broken noses and dislocated fingers. A major injury is getting "hauled off in an ambulance" or "profuse bleeding."
On the field, her teammates laughed and joked and shared advice on how to run the ball through defenders.
"We all just want to play," Arias said.
Holly Ramey, 24, will play her first game for the Mid-Mo Women's Rugby Club on Saturday. Save for evening practices, she has never played a rugby game in her life.
"There are a few maneuvers that I don't quite get, but once I see it played, I think it will make sense," she said.
Ramey has been learning how to receive a tackle. If an opponent is charging at you and you see them coming in your field of vision, she said, you turn your body to face them and ... she clenches her fists, her eyes sparkle.
Ramey hopes to play a half in Saturday's game against Kansas State.
Penny Coder, a 10-year rugby veteran, said the club has had a new player at nearly every game this season.
Coder plays strong-side flanker, a position that allows her to tackle. She said she's never hurt someone permanently. Once, she accidentally took another player out of the game and did not know it until she watched the video replay.
"When I play within the rules of the game, I'm OK with hitting someone hard," said Coder, an MU veterinarian student who would like a career in animal public policy to promote humane treatment of animals.
Alisa Liggett, 22, has played rugby since her freshman year of college at Truman State five years ago. She said the Mid-Mo team is collecting experienced players from across the nation, individuals who cannot play collegiate rugby because their eligibility has expired.
"We have seven players from Truman State," she said, as well as individuals who have played for Texas A&M and Missouri. Others have played for clubs in Alaska, Massachusetts and Arkansas.
The Mid-Mo Rugby Club, nicknamed the Black Sheep, once played against high school teams. A college team would crush us at that time, Coder said.
The competition has grown more difficult. Last weekend, the Black Sheep played back-to-back games against teams from Texas Tech and the University of Oklahoma at the War of the Roses Tournament in Norman, Okla.
Only 16 Mid-Mo players made the trip (15 are needed to field a team), and after an injury sidelined Coder, the Black Sheep became worn down and lost both games.
In twilight, the women continue to practice formations at Rock Quarry Park. Arias cheered when a short, spry teammate weaves through the other side's defending line.
Arias clutched a rugby ball in her hands and yelled, "Go! Go! Go!"
Twenty or so more weeks and she can return to the field as a player and a mother.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.