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American rugby is full of clubs that are inexorably linked to a single coach, and in the women’s game, there are few teams that have as strong a connection to their coach than the Minnesota Valkyries and ar Fugate.

A brilliant motivator and tactician, Fugate has been at the forefront of American coaching for years, but she is taking a break from the Valkyries to concentrate on her family. A noble calling, to be sure, but a tough one for the Minneapolis club to accept.

“We’ knew it was coming,” said club president Kasey Grams. “And it finally happened. It’s a loss, but we’re working hard to keep the team together and go through a rebuilding phase.”

Now back in DI instead of the Women’s Premier League, the Valkyries will be looking to win the Midwest and return to prominence.

“We want to be on top in DI,” said Grams. “But that’s going to take some work. We have some great new players from college, high school, DII teams, and some athletes new to rugby. That’s fairly common for us. That’s how we put the team together every year.”

Leading the team will be the steadfast Libby Berg and the always imposing Sarah Chobot, but they lose Christy Ringgenberg, who has moved to California to be with the USA 7s team. The Valkyries will be happy to have back Justina DeBruzzi. She tore her ACL last year and missed the season. But she’s back, and perhaps can energize a team that is talented, deep, smart, but dealing with some big changes.

Head Coach Matt Jarolimek, late of Metropolis men’s club, takes over.

“We’ve got a new coach, and a younger team, and some new faces; it will be an interesting year,” said Grams.

The Valkyries take on the Denver Black Ice in the Mile High City in their Competitive Region 2 opener Saturday