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Outlet with a kick: Rugby club enables players to unleash aggression, passion

May 8, 2008

You could argue the number of ways to occupy ever-dwindling free time.

For Kerry Goss, Jenny Possing and Meg Zei, the Milwaukee Scylla women's rugby club is the way to go.

A visit to the team Web site - scyllarugby.com - will give interested parties a good view of the club's mission: "The Milwaukee Scylla Women's Rugby Football Club is a not-for-profit organization that provides an outlet for novice and experienced female rugby players to build and improve their rugby skill set. We are a competitive organization, and we are serious about playing top-level rugby. In addition to our play on the pitch, we also organize several social, fundraising, and volunteer events throughout the year."

Where the students in Goss' math classes at Cudahy High School might see one side of her, a different version might be seen when she puts on the uniform of the club, which was founded in 2001.

"For me, I'm pretty laid-back and mellow most of the time, and rugby allows me an outlet to get a little more aggressive and passionate about things," Goss said.

That sounds like rugby, defined in part at Dictionary.com as "a form of football, played between two teams of 15 members each, that differs from soccer in freedom to carry the ball, block with the hands and arms, and tackle, and is characterized chiefly by continuous action ..."

That means it is nothing like teaching math.

"One of the big things that makes it attractive is because it's unique," Goss said. "It's not something that's out there that everybody does, that everybody knows about. There's that mystery element."

There was a mystery element back in Goss' sophomore year at Divine Savior Holy Angels. A friend who had lived in England during the summer found it hard to miss the sport. "It's played regularly like baseball is here," Goss said.

Before she knew it, she was playing.

"I played three years of high school and then I played my whole college career (at Marquette) and moved right into Scylla when I was done with that."

She is in her 12th year of playing the sport. She is still in one piece.

"I still am," Goss said. "I've done pretty well with that."

Possing is still in one piece, too. The 29-year-old mother of two who lives in Cudahy and works at Northwestern Mutual says she was more banged up playing soccer. She broke fingers and had two knee surgeries as the result of playing soccer.

Rugby? A dislocated jaw.

"I got knocked the wrong way, and got knocked out of place, and down I went," said Possing, a St. Francis grad who played rugby at UW-Milwaukee, stopped for a time while starting a family and has been back on the pitch for two years. "Couple hours in the emergency room, I was good to go and out of there."

She had played tennis and soccer at St. Francis. She was doing neither at UWM when a friend suggested she give rugby a go.

"Pretty much the first practice I was sold." Possing said. "For me it was more, I played sports my whole life and going into it, everyone made me feel just very welcome, and warm. It was almost as if you were joining a club or a team where you were going to have these lifelong relationships with people."

That is how Zei fits in. Zei, a 34-year-old elementary school principal who lives in Oak Creek, moved to the area last summer. She had lived in New Jersey, and was playing there. She wished to continue playing and hooked on with Scylla.

Zei played in the fall season, which is, as Possing put it, "when it counts and kind of for all the glory." Because of her workload, she is a social member during the spring but plans to play again in the fall.

Zei likes the structure of the game, its many rules - called laws - and the fact there is a lot of technical thinking involved. There is another facet that makes this sport different.

"Just the camaraderie of the sport," Zei said. "I don't think there's any other sport that you invite the team to come play with you, you have this very physical, very aggressive game that you play, and then afterwards, you then host that team in a social event."

She laughed.

"I enjoy the camaraderie," she said.

Zei says she is one of the older players on Scylla. She believes players will participate longer as the sport becomes more popular in high school and college.

"Now that we're seeing a lot more women coming through that either played in high school or college, I think we're going to continue to see those numbers grow and women playing later," Zei said. "I think, too, what's going to help that continue is improving our skills. People say rugby's a really tough sport, but we train to stay safe and to prevent injury."

So we have a young high school teacher. We have a mom. We have a principal.

"We really have people of all shapes and sizes, all heights, all weights, all speeds," Goss said. "It's fantastic. Anybody can find a place in rugby."

Jerry Karpowicz can be reached at (262) 446-6628.

Win, place, show

Top finishes for Milwaukee Scylla women's rugby team:

2007 Second place, Midwest Conference

2006

Second place, Midwest Conference

2005

Fourth place, Division II

national tournament

2004

First place, Division II West Region

HOMETOWN HEROINES

Area members of Milwaukee Scylla women's rugby team:

Dawn Turnipseed, Bay View

Jen Carviou, Bay View

Kerry Goss, South Milwaukee

Abby Mindel, Bay View

Bridget Scholtka, Bay View

Meg Zei, Oak Creek

Jenny Possing, Cudahy

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