Local prep rugby players will take their game to the next level | Sports

High School Rugby in the Low Country? Who knew?

Few people outside of the athletes and their families may be aware that rugby is growing as a club sport for high school students in the Charleston area.

Though a long way from becoming a sanctioned sport by the SC High School League, rugby is taking hold in Mount Pleasant, with a pair of high school seniors taking their skills to the college level.

Wando’s Cecilia Ollis will play next year at Army (US Military Academy at West Point) and Oceanside Collegiate’s Roan Shawver has signed to play at Queens University in Charlotte. Both players just recently began participating in the sport but appear to be naturals.

“I played soccer for as long as I can remember, up until COVID-19 hit,” said Ollis, who received her congressional appointments from South Carolina senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, along with congresswoman Nancy Mace.

“In soccer I was always one of the bigger players and I was physical so I would get called for fouls a lot. I just decided a year ago to try rugby and I fell in love with the game. It’s a game where being physical is encouraged so I sort of just fit in.”

Due to the lack of competition locally and within the state, club teams play many of their matches against teams from North Carolina, where the sport has a head start in terms of its growth.

Ollis also plays with an established league team, the USA South Panthers. It was with that team in a tournament in Orlando, Fla., that Ollis caught the eye of Army coaches. Ollis said she has wanted to attend West Point for years.

“It’s a dream come true, to be able to attend my dream school and to get the chance to play Division I rugby,” said Ollis, who also is a member of the marching band at Wando. “I honestly had no idea that I would be able to play in college. I look forward to improving my game at the next level.”

For Shawver, his sport of choice throughout high school was football. He started as a sophomore safety at Summerville before playing the last two seasons at Oceanside Collegiate. Despite a very solid career, the two-time Post and Courier All-Lowcountry football team selection was not getting the scholarship offers that he had hoped for.

Shawver joined Oceanside Collegiate’s rugby team on a whim and discovered that his physicality and toughness served him well in the new sport. He attended a camp in Atlanta and was offered the opportunity to play by Queens College.

“It’s kind of crazy because football was always my thing, my passion, and I just decided to try rugby,” said Shawver, who is originally from Idaho. “I’ve been playing football for a long time and I was disappointed that the college offers weren’t coming after putting so much work into it. But rugby gave me a chance and now it’s my sport.”

Shawver admits that he still has a lot to learn about the sport.

“I don’t yet have the skills as guys that have been playing for a long time but I will become a student of the game,” he said. “It’s all very new but it’s exciting. I feel like I have a great future in rugby.”

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