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For The Love Of The Game- 90s Grad Stays In Touch Through Sport

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Former Penn State Rugby player Suzanne Blasi-Bombardieri began her rugby journey when she stumbled upon a recruitment flyer in her freshman dorm in 1989. Interested, she contacted the team and confessed that although she played sports in high school, rugby was not one of them.

“Don’t worry, we’ll teach you,” said the girl on the other line, and now Suzanne can’t imagine her life without Penn State Rugby.

“I associate [Penn State and rugby] so closely together, I can’t even imagine [not having] been involved in rugby and having been [at Penn State],” she said.

But, at the time, the women’s rugby team was on inactive status. By her senior year, Suzanne, along with other teammates, like Beth Baldwin Ashe, Becky Williams, Wendy Heslin Ferri, Tricia Chipeleski Marnell and Karen Wasilewski Masker, worked to formalize the team again in 1991.

“We kind of look at that reestablishment that happened in 1991 as the basis for the current collegiate team that we now have,” said Suzanne. “We certainly can’t take credit for all these championships that they’ve won and achieved, but we are proud of the foundation. Each group of women who [has] gone through the program [has] built on what people before have laid down, and we always strive to leave it a little bit better.”

Since her graduation in 1992, Suzanne went on to law school, became a corporate attorney, got married, had kids and now volunteers for a restorative justice program that works with local police departments. And, through it all, lessons learned and memories made from her Penn State Rugby years stick with her.

From tracking down the Intramural Club Director to going through the process to formalize the team, “We would never take no for an answer,” she explained. “If we set our minds to do something we were always going to find a way. That has certainly helped me in life. I’ve certainly never let anything kind of be an obstacle.”

Suzanne still plays rugby on occasion. She stays in contact with quite a few former players and tries to meet up with them whenever possible. Whether it's gathering on the East Coast if someone is in town for an event or meeting up in the U.S. to watch an international rugby match, Suzanne and her teammates are very much a part of each other’s lives.

She also strives to “stay supportive and in touch with the current players to the best of [her] ability.” Suzanne returns to Penn State each year with her children to watch the team play and visits every August for reunion weekend.

“If we are going to stay one of the elite programs, then the alumni really need to support the current program, the current coaches and the current players.”

With a passion for the program and love for the sport, Suzanne is proud of the sisterhood her and her teammates created and will forever remember Penn State and rugby as one in the same.