Nothing could stop her love of rugby

Isabel Haber was reminded of why she loves rugby after she lost everything she owned in a fire. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Isabel Haber was climbing down the fire escape from the fourth floor. Her building was on fire. She was going to lose everything in her apartment.

It was also game day. Haber is a member of  the women’s club rugby team at Northeastern, and a big match was kicking off just 90 minutes later against Boston University. It was a culminating opportunity for Northeastern, which was striving for the national playoffs just three years after losing every game during Haber’s freshman season.

The story of what happened next has come to remind Haber of why she has loved playing for the rugby club.

“I still definitely wanted to play,” said Haber, a senior fullback. “There was no point in not playing if I’m just going to be sitting around sad that my apartment burned down.”

She wound up contributing to another big victory in what turned out to be a breakthrough season.

“This team has really amazing people,” Haber said. “One of my friends ran out and bought me a new mouth guard. People gave me cleats and every kind of gear that I needed in order to play, which was really awesome.”

Then her teammates organized a fundraiser for her, with contributions from other teams in the area.

“All of the seniors have a lot of confidence that our team will continue growing the way it has been,” said Haber. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“They ended up donating a ton of stuff, which is completely awesome,” Haber said. “That really shows how amazing the rugby community is.”

Late last month, Northeastern split its two games in the Women’s Division 1 national playoffs, which was another cause for celebration for a team that had come so far in so short a time. Haber and other Huskies remember when their program was going winless for two straight years.

“Even though we weren’t winning a lot of games, everyone was still very supportive,” Haber said. “And that’s continued today, where everyone wants to get better for themselves, but also for the team.”

Coach Keith Cattanach installed a more creative and unpredictable style this season, which made the Huskies difficult to defend. They qualified for the playoffs with a memorable 29-0 wild card win against Navy.

Northeastern lost in the quarterfinals Nov. 17 to defending national champion Davenport, 43-12, but recovered the next day to win its consolation match, 49-17, over Michigan State.

“All of the seniors have a lot of confidence that our team will continue growing the way it has been,” said Haber, who will be graduating in May with a degree in behavioral neuroscience. “This is not our peak. I’m sure it’s going to keep going, and I’m excited to see it.”

Other Northeastern club teams have also competed in national championships recently. The women’s field hockey team, seeded No. 2, won one of three games at nationals in Virginia Beach in November. The men’s running team finished No. 9 overall at nationals in Lexington, Kentucky, where Rylie Ellam finished third in the women’s “B” competition. And the women’s soccer team qualified for nationals from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in Foley, Alabama.