Morgan Rovetti’s rugby career has come a long way in a short time.
When Rovetti graduated from Reno High School in 2008, she hadn’t even heard of the sport. Less than two years later, the 19-year-old University of Nevada, Reno student is considered one of the country’s best under-20 competitors.
She has played in international matches for the USA Rugby Women’s Under-20 National Team. The team is comprised of 22 players selected from throughout the country to play U-20 matches, and is considered a precursor to earning a spot on the USA Rugby Women’s National Team.
And to think that Rovetti wasn’t quite sure what rugby was when she was first asked to play.
“One of the girls in my hall suggested that I try and join the rugby team with her,” Rovetti said of her freshman year of college, which she attended at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Rovetti transferred to Nevada last summer. “When she asked me, I had no idea what rugby was. I had never seen it or even had the slightest clue how to play.”
From not knowing much about rugby, things continued to evolve rather inauspiciously.
During her first practice – the friend who suggested Rovetti try out for the team actually backed out, leaving Rovetti to go out on her own – Rovetti remembered thinking, “‘Holy cow, what did I get myself into?’ The girls were fierce and didn’t take it easy on me because it was my first practice.”
Still, it was obvious to Rovetti that she was going to like her new game. Having come from an athletic family and having had an athletic background – she was naturally quick and was a standout sprinter for Reno High – she quickly showed an affinity for the rough-and-tumble sport.
“Four days later I played in my first game and fell in love,” she said. “Being a fast runner definitely helped me play the game, but I think the combination of all the different sports I played growing up has definitely helped me become the rugby player I am now.”
On a philosophical level, Rovetti said she enjoys rugby for a variety of reasons. Her passion for the sport, clearly, burns brightly.
“If I were to tell someone why I enjoy playing rugby, it would be because when I’m playing I can leave everything on the field … just let it all out,” she said. “It’s something that is very empowering.”
It didn’t take long for coaches for the national rugby team to take notice of the 5-foot-6 Rovetti’s skill. In May, during the collegiate national championships in Florida, U-20 national team coach Bryn Chivers watched Rovetti and her BYU teammates play, and came away impressed. Chivers later called Rovetti and invited her to play on the team.
“It was definitely very flattering and something I didn’t expect,” Rovetti said.
Rovetti began play on the U-20 team over the summer in Pittsburgh, then toured England in July, where the U.S. team placed second in the World Cup.
“Playing on the national team is very different,” she said. “You have to be ready to compete at that whole other level.”
On transferring to the University this summer, Rovetti said the institution’s study abroad program was one of the prime factors behind her move. She is currently part of the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) program in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
“UNR’s study abroad consortium through USAC was what attracted me most,” she said. “Going to school in Reno prior to college made me eligible for the Millennium Scholarship and my mom (Diana) works for the College of Education (in the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities), so the financial side was something that I thought I shouldn’t pass up.”
She said her experience with USAC has been educational and enriching.
“(Studying abroad) is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and getting the opportunity to learn so much about another culture is priceless,” she said.
There is one downside to the excursion, however. Two years ago, Rovetti would've never imagined it would be possible.
“Not being able to play rugby here in Costa Rica is definitely hard but in the long run, I’ve made the best decision for me,” she said.
She plans on catching up on her rugby career the minute she returns from studying abroad.
“Being able to play on the senior women’s national team would be a dream come true,” she said. “I have so much respect for the players and I know I have a lot of work to get there.”