Juah Toe was a bit of a jack of all trades when she was a student at Central York High.
Toe, who graduated from CY in 2016, played field hockey, ran track and even was on the cheerleading squad.
While somewhat satisfying, in all of those activities, something was missing for Toe.
In the summer of the 2016, Toe found her calling when she turned on the television and caught the Olympic gold medal women’s rugby match between New Zealand and Australia.
What she saw checked off all the boxes - speed, strategy and most importantly, contact.
“Everything that I needed in a sport just kind of came together,” said Toe, who led the West Chester University women’s rugby team to a 15-14 victory in the national title contest last week. “There was running and, of course, hitting and being physical. Tackling is my favorite thing.”
Toe, a senior psychology major, plays as a flanker, which is one of the forwards on the team. Good speed and strong tackling skills are paramount for success at that position.
Blessed with both, that is perhaps why Toe, who won the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sport Scholar Award for women’s rugby, was able to take to the sport that she only started playing during her freshman year. That, along with the confidence that WC coach Tony Deremer placed in her when he put Toe in the lineup as a freshman that was still a bit green to the game.
“We only had two practices and then we played up at Sacred Heart,” she said of her freshman season. “And Coach Tony put me in for the entire second half. I was like, ‘I have not practiced enough for you to be throwing me in there for 40 minutes,’ but he was just kind of the first one that really pushed me into it. He just told me, 'Have fun and you’ll figure it out later.'"
As a junior, Toe was named as an honorable mention All-American by the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA). She was the WC program’s only honoree.
“That was a bit of a shocker,” she said. “We played against some pretty big teams like West Point (Army), Harvard, Brown, Princeton and those schools are much bigger and have more money and can support a lot more freshman and stuff like that. So to get honorable mention last year, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Toe very well could find herself on the first-team this time around after leading West Chester to a perfect 11-0 mark. She had big and memorable moments throughout the season including wins against Queens University of Charlotte as well as the wins over Mount St. Mary’s in the semifinals and Brown in the national title game.
“I’m probably one of the best tacklers on the team, but I’m also one of the best poachers,” she said. “It’s just one of the biggest moments of a game to be able to turn the ball over and against Mount St. Mary’s I was on a roll. I think I had six poaches in that game and a lot of them were when they were really close.”
The year is not over quite yet for Toe, who will play in the spring season before graduating. After that, however, she will set her eyes upon her dream of making the U.S. National women’s rugby team with the hopes of participating in the 2024 Summer Olympics.
“My big, big crazy dream is to make the Olympic team,” she said. “But I know that a lot of hard work has to go into that.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.