With a roaring crowd ringing in her ears, Emily “Pax” Della Fera’s body crashes into her opponent, dragging her to the ground and creating the perfect moment in a perfect rugby game.
“Managing to tackle someone to the ground is the best part of the game for me,” Della Fera said. “In the least violent way you can think of, of course.”
Della Fera is a loosehead prop for Temple University’s Women’s Rugby team. She has made one try and 12 tackles this season, and nine tries and 31 tackles in her entire rugby career. Altogether, Temple’s team has made 29 tries and won four out of 14 games in the 2013-2014 season.
“Pax is a natural team leader,” said Madeline Luebbert, a fellow Temple rugby player. “She is intense, positive and supportive of us all. She never quits and motivates us all to work as hard as she does.”
She was dubbed “Pax” on her first day of practice, after she was accidentally elbowed in the nose by one of her teammates.
“I started bleeding really hard, so I stuffed a tampon up my nose,” Della Fera said. “That’s where it came from. It’s short for ‘Tampax.’ It happened more than once, so the nickname stuck.”
Della Fera’s interest in sports began at a very young age. She grew up with three brothers who loved football, and two of them were part of their high school team. Since there was no woman’s league, she attended every game and even helped them practice at home.
She had her first experience with rugby at West Chester University in 2009. Her roommate was part of the university’s women’s team and invited her to attend a practice a few months into her freshman year.
“It’s much different from football,” she said. “Because people don’t really know very much about it, it’s kind of more down to earth. When I first started, I felt so lost on the field. It was like learning a new language.”
When she transferred to Temple University as a sophomore, she was far from done with the game. She researched women’s sports on campus and came across Temple’s rugby team. She applied for a spot and the coach gave her a shot shortly after.
“Since her first day, Emily has shown enthusiasm, diligence, loyalty and leadership that has aided our team in a successful progression this season,” said the team’s coach, Tara Way. “She stands out as a leader on and off the field. The team really looks up to her for knowledge and inspiration.”
A year after she joined Temple’s team, Della Fera suffered a severe shoulder injury and had to be carried off the field. Her shoulder was torn in three places and she had to undergo surgery to sew it back together. She has sustained several minor injuries as well.
Della Fera is a Spanish major and English minor in her senior year at Temple. After receiving her diploma in May, she hopes to travel and teach English in either Mexico or Italy. She has no plans to play rugby after graduation.
“I won’t pursue it professionally after I graduate,” Della Fera said. “But I’ve made memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I will always be Pax, the loosehead prop, at heart.”