There was a lot of opportunity for players to “break out” in 2013. The USA Women National 15s Team played seven tests this summer, and both sets of squads included a significant amount of fresh faces. Much attention was lent to the Eagle backs, which included (just graduated) college students one series and 7s professionals in the next.
It was more difficult for an incoming player to breach the experience-rich pack, but WNT coach Pete Steinberg wanted to see the likes of Carmen Farmer, Jess Davis and RUGBYMag's Women’s Breakout Player of the Year, 20-year-old Hope Rogers, tested in international waters.
The Pennsylvania native was groomed at Penn State and soon became an integral member of the always-devastating front row. Steinberg had ample knowledge of Rogers as a Nittany Lion, but the prop really flourished when lined up with peers from across the country.
“I was at the U20 [Junior All American] camp in Lake Placid in the summer of 2012, and it was at this camp that Hope’s ability began to show itself,” Steinberg said. “She was always a tremendous athlete and rugby player, but she had to make a commitment to her body and get strong enough and fit enough to play at a higher level.”
The U20 Nations Cup was to occur in one year’s time (July 2013), and Rogers wanted on that tour. She pushed herself throughout 2012 and re-emerged a fitter, stronger rugby player in spring 2013.
“When I talked to [USA Women Junior All American coach] Danielle Miller about players who stood out at her camps in the spring,” Steinberg said, “the first name she mentioned was Hope, and she encouraged me to invite her to the elite camp at UNC. Hope immediately showed she could play with the best players in the country, and continued to grow as a player and a person throughout the summer.”
Rogers was eventually chosen for that WJAA tour to England, but an unexpected achievement preceded the trip abroad: The prop was selected for the three test series against France in early June and then added to her cap total during the senior Nations Cup in Colorado that August.
Rogers eased into the competition, getting the equivalent of a half against Les Bleus XV (30 minutes on June 11, 10 minutes on June 14). That said, she made every minute count and did what every sub needs to do off the bench: make an impact. Remembered for her piercing runs around the breakdown in the DI collegiate final – which helped her to an MVP performance – Rogers showed no signs of intimidation or lack of confidence against internationals with a decade more experience. When she returned to the national team for the Nations Cup in Greeley, she inaugurated her second tournament with a start against South Africa and the game's first try.
She was memorable, and fun to watch, and we’re eager to see what she breaks into in the near future.