The rugby community got a fast and furious introduction to RUGBYMag’s 2013 Women’s U20 Player of the Year, Natalie Kosko – an appropriate beginning, considering the impression she’s made over the last year.
In February, Kosko was the only unfamiliar name on the USA Stripes and USA Stars, the two representative 7s sides that competed at the Las Vegas Invitational. That was no fluke, as the then-19-year-old had little more than a year’s worth of rugby experience to her credit. She came from a lifetime of gymnastics, and much to her own surprise, she excelled at the sport. Her ascendency, however, was no accident.
“From the moment I started playing rugby, I was serious about it, and that’s how I’ve been able to get this far [so quickly],” Kosko said. “Gymnastics got me where I am today, and I wouldn’t be the rugby player I am without it.”
A few months after picking up a rugby ball, Kosko attended a USA U20 camp. Quinnipiac University caught wind of the athlete and offered her a scholarship. In fall 2012, the Sebastian, Fla., native played in her first competitive rugby season with the varsity team and by early 2013, she was playing alongside the USA’s 7s greats.
Although she’s only 5’6”, Kosko has a long, powerful stride. It’s not her footwork that gets you but a nice change in speed and angle. And don’t forget the stiff-arm. When the center/wing stepped onto the field at the DII national championships, she had the crowd on its feet as she unleashed an unstoppable fend, often shocking would-be tacklers multiple times during the same storming run.
“I never knew I was fast until I started playing rugby,” Kosko said. “In gymnastics, you never know you’re fast because it’s all about pointing your toes and everything.”
The education continued over the summer, as Kosko was chosen for the USA Women’s Junior Collegiate All American team that competed at the U20 Nations Cup in England. She started at wing against Canada twice and England, and scored a try against the U20 Roses in the USA’s 27-17 victory.
When Kosko rejoined the Bobcats in fall 2013, she didn’t miss a step, or stiff-arm. She was reunited with Maggie Myles, a fellow U20 from the England tour who was part of an impressive class of freshmen scholarship athletes. The duo worked well together in the backfield. Kosko led the DI Northeast Conference with 165 points (33 tries) last season, finishing two seasons with 280 points total.
Kosko has left a lasting impression on 2013, and we're certain that 2014 will be as entertaining.