Northeast Academy’s Sarah Buonopane, 23, has been selected for the USA Women’s 7s squad headed to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Sydney. With her selection, Buonopane becomes the first woman in Academy history to receive a national team cap solely through the Academy pathway.
“We, the Northeast Academy family, are very proud of Sarah and all that she has and will accomplish,” Academy Director John McGeachy stated. She is representative of the principles the Academy was founded on, to identify, develop and prepare athletes in the Northeast for the National level.”
A product of Stonehill College, Buonopane admittedly never heard of rugby before stepping on campus. Her dedication to athletics led her to join the college’s renowned squad, on which she flourished and excelled to national acclaim with her aggressive stops and unstoppable speed. In 2015, she was recognized as Women’s Rugby Northeast Player of the Year and received Collegiate All-American honors.
Despite her initial hesitation to continue with rugby post-grad, Buonopane was inspired by her Stonehill’s women’s coach Derek Jenesky to advance her career with Northeast Academy and Beantown RFC. She then played for Old Blue New York’s Women’s 7s squad. What Buonopane lacks in size, she certainly makes up for in mental and physical skills unmatched by any other players on the pitch.
Over the last year, the talented player grew into a prominent performer and strong leader in both 15’s and 7’s. In October 2016, Buonopane received her first invitation to the national team’s camp; this was shortly followed up with another trip to Chula Vista in November and this most recent camp in January. Her selection for the national team reflects her steadfast dedication to development as a rugby player. She said, “Each camp has been such an amazing and humbling experience that I just want to keep getting invited back.”
Northeast Academy Women’s Coach Steve Lewis has nothing but praise for Buonopane. “Sarah’s exemplary focus and work ethic has always impressed her coaches and teammates at the Northeast Academy and we are delighted she has been chosen to represent her country, the ultimate honor for any rugby player,” he said.
Yet, Buonopane owes much of her success in Chula Vista to Northeast Academy.
“If it weren’t for Northeast Academy, I never would have been invited back,” she explained. “The Academy worked with me on using my strengths to my advantage, and helped me improve the weaknesses to get as a player. Being on tour with the Northeast Academy had already prepared me to the best of their ability for the elite level of training I was going to experience out in Chula Vista, CA.”
The Northeast Academy is a National Development Academy sanctioned by USA Rugby as the official designated pathway to the USA Eagles National Team selection for both Men and Women in the Northeast of America. With training locations in New York City, Boston and Buffalo, the Academy offers development in three distinct areas: elite player advancement; coach education; and local union enrichment; and has the ultimate goal to augment the skills of players and coaches alike, growing the game within the EMPIRE and NERFU Unions.