Clemson junior Deirdre Rocha was named a Division I All-American by National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) following a standout Fall 2021 campaign. The native of Seekonk, Massachusetts was one of 23 individuals to earn the accolade among more than 3,500 athletes.
Rocha was taken by surprise in March when she received a phone call informing her she was selected to the All-America team.
“I was playing with the pep band at a tournament for our women’s basketball team when I first heard,” she said. “I was outside of the hotel and my coach called and gave me the news. I’ve only played rugby for two years, but I love the sport. It meant a lot to me that my hard work was paying off.”
Rocha was a three-sport athlete at a small high school in Massachusetts and was recruited to play soccer at a lower level, but wanted instead to attend a big university with a reputable academic program. She toured several schools with renowned engineering programs up and down the East Coast when it came time to choose a college destination.
On top of her academic goals, Rocha wanted to participate in a club sport and be a member of a marching band. Clemson checked all three boxes.
“I joined the club rugby team as a second-semester freshman,” she explained. “I was already playing baritone with Tiger Band, but I missed the competitive aspect of being on a team.”
After navigating modified campus operations due to COVID-19, Rocha is thriving in and out of the classroom. She was introduced to the Arch Initiatives program within the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering. She engaged in project-based learning and secured a valuable summer internship doing surveying and land development work in 2021 and 2022 with a firm in Washington, D.C.
Beyond the classroom, Rocha starred as a team captain during the 15s season last Fall. She helped the Tigers to a runner-up finish in the South Atlantic Rugby Conference. Success followed in the Spring season, as Clemson’s women qualified for the Collegiate Rugby Championships, scheduled for May 28-30 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rocha and the Tigers will face Northern Iowa as one of 16 teams competing in the collegiate 7s tournament.
Through it all, Rocha wouldn’t change a single thing about her Clemson Experience.
“Coming to Clemson has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Rocha, who has served as a teaching assistant this semester. “I’ve met over 500 people here through band and rugby and have been able to travel to a bunch of cool cities. All of the connections I’ve made are because I came to Clemson. I’m very grateful.”