With success comes financial crisis for The Chicago Women's Rugby Football Club (CWRFC), which has been playing on the pitch since 1976.
The sport is financed by the players and this season alone, the team has had league matches in Detroit, Austin and Denver. If the team makes the playoffs, the first round is in Atlanta and the finals will be in Ft. Myers, Fla.
"In the fall, we get a lot of kids right out of college," said team coach Lisa Gartner. "Other players are in grad school or at the beginning of careers. The airfares this fall would stress most people's finances.
"As of last Thursday, we didn't even have a full side (15) to go to Austin. The [air] fare last I checked was over $400. That's why we put out an emergency call to our alums, affectionately referred to as the COWS [Chicago Old Women's Side]. There have been responses" but more is needed, she added.
"Rugby takes up a lot of timepractices and games, plus training in the gym and track. So it's difficult to also spend a lot of time fundraising."
That said, the team is planning a fundraiser Sept. 22 at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave.
Gartner, 56, a Chicago resident, first started playing for the team in 1979. She said the 2012 team has "a lot of talent and good numbers."
"When we put it all together with everyone available, we'll be really good, but we're not sure when that will be," she said. "Our forwards are really strong this season. Once they got their rhythm together, they out-played Detroit. We just couldn't finish with enough scores."
CWRFC hosted the first Women's National Rugby Classic in September 1978, and then again in 1979.
"As in other sports, women's rugby has not been promoted as much as the men [who play rugby,]" Gartner said. "Sponsorships are usually not large or long-lasting. It is a wonderfully fun, physically rigorous and mentally stimulating sport. Women's rugby attracts a wide variety of interesting, vibrant people.
"The team has been around for a long time: 36 years. So we're not going anywhere. We have a long, colorful history, which we will continue to [grow]."
Gartner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .