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One alumna’s journey from hockey to the Women’s Rugby World Cup

Katy Augustyn, center, and teammates before a game. Photo courtesy of Katy Augustyn

Katy Augustyn played hockey all her life, and she was good at it. But in 2006, she traded the sport for rugby, unsure of where it might lead. Nearly a decade later, she’s a member of the U.S. National Team, which she helped lead to a fourth-place finish at the World Cup.

Augustyn, who graduated Northeastern in 2007 with a degree in criminal justice, was a goaltender for the women’s hockey team from 2002 to 2006, during which time she posted a .902 save percentage. When her NCAA eligibility ran out in 2006, however, she was looking for a new challenge.

Katy Augustyn’s official USA Women’s Rugby photo. Photo courtesy Katy Agustyn

She had a few teammates who had started playing rugby as well as some friends on the Northeastern women’s club rugby team, Augustyn said. After spending some time with them, she was convinced.

While some of the skills were transferrable—hand-eye coordination, having good field vision, “keeping your head on a swivel”—Augustyn said the change in sports took some getting used-to.

“I was a hockey goalie for my entire career, so to a sport where there’s 15 different positions was a lot,” she said with a laugh.

Augustyn spent her fifth year at Northeastern learning the ins and outs of the game, and having fun doing it. So much so that as graduation approached, she started playing on teams across Boston, including the Boston Women’s Rugby Club and Beantown Rugby Football Club.

During the years she played on local teams, she met many players who were also part of the U.S. national team pool—the group of athletes from which players are selected for World Cup and other international matches.

She watched several of her teammates in national team pool matches and caught the bug.

“That’s when I thought, ‘OK. I want to do this,’” Augustyn said.

She played a position called the hooker, which, Augustyn acknowledged, “is a pretty funny name.” In Boston though, the talent at that position was already stacked. Through a friend, Augustyn heard of a rugby team in Berkeley, California, that needed a hooker, and took her talents to the West Coast.

In 2012, playing for the Berkeley All Blues Women’s Rugby Club, Augustyn got the call that she’d made it into the national pool. That gave her access to various training camps and tryout games that led to the national team.

“I always wanted to find some way to work in sports throughout my life, I just always thought my pathway would be to work in athletics, not continue to play. So, to have this opportunity is really incredible.”

Katy Augustyn Northeastern alumna, U.S. Women's Rugby player

Initially, she didn’t make the team. But after an injury opened up a spot for her on the U.S. Women’s Rugby team just in time for one of its international tours.

“I was at work and got a call from the coach who asked if I could make it on such short notice,” Augustyn recalled. “I had to hang up and call my boss to see if it was OK, and he said, ‘Obviously you should say yes.’ Later that week I got the confirmation from the coach and had to slap myself a couple times to make sure it was real.”

Augustyn traveled to Italy and France, and even started in one of the games, which, she said, “isn’t typical at all.” She was invited to everything after that.

In 2014, she competed in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, and she just returned from the 2017 World Cup in Ireland, where she helped the U.S. team to a fourth-place finish, one of its best finishes in years.

“I always wanted to find some way to work in sports throughout my life,” Augustyn said. “I just always thought my pathway would be to work in athletics, not continue to play. So, to have this opportunity is really incredible.”