BIDDEFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Over the weekend, the University of New England Rugby team beat Bowdoin Colege 57-14 to earn the NIRA Tier 2 Championship. It's a big accomplishment considering rugby only became a varsity program at UNE last year.
Biddeford native Ashley Potvin-Fulford has been coaching the team since it started as a club sport back in 2012. She's built a winning program full of women who are there for each other through all of life's wins and losses.
Potvin-Fulford was only 23 years old when she became the head coach of UNE's rugby club program. She recruited 20-30 women to be a part of the initial team, most of which had no rugby experience.
When they team transitioned to a varsity program in 2016, players leaned on their coach for support when dealing with the demands of being a varsity athlete.
"She's there to talk about rugby related things, and non-rugby related things," says senior captain Kassidy Towne.
But in December of that year, it was the players who stepped up and were strong for their coach. Ashley's husband, Will Fulford, died suddenly at the age of 29 due to heart complications.
After taking some time off, Coach Ashley returned to find a display of love and support from her rugby family.
"My door was covered in a poster and little notes and all of these things," says coach Potvin-Fulford. "They made it very easy for me to try to get back as quick a possible."
Holding each other up and moving forward, arm in arm, all the way to a 2017 championship title.
"If you show that you care about the people you work with, they're going to show that they care about you as well," says coach Potvin-Fulford. "That builds such a nice culture to have on a team, and I think we've really been able to foster that this year."
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