Tia Blythe said she and her friends caused heads to turn as they walked to class in their prom dresses. Some of the dresses sparkled incessantly while others resembled vibrant ballerina tutus.
But Blythe and her friends were not dressed to attend a high school dance.
They were getting ready to play rugby.
Blythe and her friends are not only UCLA students, but part of the UCLA women’s rugby team.
The team was dressed Thursday afternoon for their annual “Prom Dress Rugby” fundraising game in hopes of raising money for upcoming season fees and to publicize the team.
“The purpose is to get people to know that UCLA has a (women’s) rugby team because it’s amazing that people don’t know that we exist or even how a rugby ball looks like,” Blythe said.
Blythe said she enjoys the game because it’s good for releasing stress, and it provides an option for women to play an aggressive sport.
“I got into rugby because I got tired of getting yellow cards in soccer,” Blythe said.
Preparations for the fundraising game started at 9 a.m. with players from the women’s rugby team modeling their prom dresses on Bruin Walk as they passed fliers inviting students to the game.
Players also attended class in their unusual attire as a way to attract a larger audience for their game. Many even accessorized their dresses by pining rugby flyers onto them.
Carrissa Hsieh, publicity executive for the team, said they try to wear the ugliest dresses possible to the event.
And they were not only wearing outrageous dresses, but also sports bras, knee-high socks and soccer cleats.
Wearing eye-catching outfits was a great way to draw attention to the sport, Blythe said.
“The funny thing is that rugby is the second-most famous sport in the world to soccer, and it’s just amazing how oblivious people in the U.S. are about rugby,” she said.
Warm-up for the game began at about 1:30 p.m. as the players went through their usual practice routines.
The players could be seen dancing on the sidelines to the Spice Girls’ song, “Wannabe.”
They created quite the spectacle, Blythe said.
“It feels pretty ridiculous. Some girls cut the dress short to be able to run,” Blythe said, “You pretty much grab onto whatever you can get a hold of when tackling. And lace is flying everywhere.”
As a last form of preparation, the women adjusted their dresses, made sure the duct tape held together the torn dresses worn during past years and even checked their makeup.
Kickoff finally came at 2:15 p.m. after the referee arrived sporting a clean white-collar shirt and black vest with his traditional shorts and cleats.
Besides raising funds for the team’s season costs, the game was also launched in an attempt to recruit players, Hsieh said.
Although the ball was consistently lost in the color-crazed field and players stopped to adjust their dresses in between plays, the game did not lack any of the traditional slaps, shoves and tackles.
“It’s already an intense game, and so props to them for wearing their dresses,” third-year biochemistry student Raisa Avezova said as she watched the game.
Though usually held in the fall, the fundraiser’s date was moved to early January, only a couple of weeks before their game at Stanford, which will kick off their season.
After only forming the collegiate-level team in 2005, the undefeated team in the 2008 Southern California Women’s Rugby Union earned the chance to attend the Rugby Union Nationals in Albuquerque, N.M.
“(The dresses) add a new twist to the game as they make it hard to tackle people, especially when you can’t see their legs,” Hsieh said.
Third-year linguistics student Jeffery Lieu said that the dresses worn by the players, though more fit for a dance than a game, did not detract from the sport and the competition.
“It makes you imagine how much faster and more intense it is when they are wearing their uniforms, even though it looks like they are going at a very fast speed,” Lieu said.