January 14, 2014 | by Kevin Majoros
Ladies on the move
Maryland Stingers, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

The Maryland Stingers. (Photo courtesy the team)

Despite a lot of changes in rugby in this part of the country, the Maryland Stingers, a local women’s team, is gearing up for a busy spring.

The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) was an association of youth, high school, collegiate and adult men’s and women’s rugby teams in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

In August of 2013, MARFU ceased to exist because of some reshuffling being done by USA Rugby. With approximately 6,800 players from about 180 clubs, MARFU represented the largest territorial rugby union in the United States.

MARFU was split in two and renamed the Mid-Atlantic Conference (NCR4) which now consists of two geographic unions — Capital Geographic Union and East Penn Geographic Union. The teams completed their fall 2013 season under the new designations and are still waiting on the competitive matrix schedule for the spring season.

The Stingers, a women’s Division 2-South club team, are launching their practice schedule in February in anticipation of matrix play beginning in March. The Stingers, who have a presence at Capital Pride every year, are a diverse group of lady rugby players with varying levels of skill and age.

“Because of the transient nature of the D.C. area, recruiting new players is an ongoing process,” says Taryn Michelitch of the Stingers. “In addition to former rugby players, we get a lot of crossover from lacrosse and soccer. Beginners are also always welcome.”

The Stingers’ schedule consists of spring and fall seasons played under the rugby fifteens rules and a summer season played under the rugby sevens rules.

Practices for the spring and fall seasons are held under the lights at Duvall Field in College Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Practices for the summer season are held at the Tacoma Education Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m.

Dues for the team are tiered with first-year members paying a lower amount. All players must join USA Rugby to compete.

For those who have never played Rugby, the Stingers offer skills practices at the beginning of each season.

“We start the seasons out with ‘rookie practices’ consisting of non-contact skills,” Michelitch says. “An experienced player will spend concentrated time with the rookies going over skills and rules.”

In addition to league play, the Stingers compete in rugby tournaments throughout the year. In the past they’ve competed at Ruggerfest in Manassas, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and Cape Fear in Wilmington, N.C.

Despite their busy schedule, the lady Stingers find time to give back to the community.  Periodically during the year, they can be found doing clean-up on Duvall Field.

They have also volunteered their time in the United States Quad Rugby Association, lending support to the Capitol Punishers, a collision (wheelchair rugby) team sponsored by Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital.

Look for the Stingers to start bi-weekly practices in February for the spring season.

“Our roster of players usually ranges from 20 to 30 players,” Michelitch says. “We have a core group of women who play consistently from year to year which is why the team has remained active since the early 1980s.”

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