Photo: Volleyball v. UT Martin


A sophomore out of Moweaqua, Carissa Burge continues to improve her game and is developing into a leader in only her second season.

The 5-foot-9 scrum-half graduated from Central A&M High School in her home town with the class of 2011. She lettered in four sports in high school, including softball, basketball, track and volleyball. She also notably was one of the three finalists for ESPN Decatur Top ‘Female Athlete of the Year.’

Burge began her career at Eastern with almost no knowledge of the sport, and has since developed into a key skill player for the rugby team.

“I’ve definitely developed as a player since I came here not knowing anything about rugby,” Burge said. “Now I would say I have a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals.”

As the designated kicker, Burge also practices her kicking game as much as she can in an attempt to gain an upper hand over the competition. The second-year player puts in extra time after each practice to work on her fundamentals and improve her fitness level.

“Well, (laughs) it doesn’t give me a lower-hand, obviously,” Burge said. “Working outside of practice is going to help my fitness and make me in better shape than (the competition).”

In addition to Burge noticing her own self-improvement, Eastern head coach Frank Graziano has also taken notice.

“She has prepared better coming into this season,” Graziano said. “I’m actually moving her around a lot more this season because of her talent.”

In senior flanker Stefanie Mahan’s absence, Burge has stepped up her role on both sides of the ball. She leads the team in tackles (16) and is emerging as a key defender for the Panther squad. On the offensive side of the pitch, Burge is second in points (six) and is 3-for-6 on two-point conversion attempts.

Burge has developed as an on-the-field leader in her expanded role this season, and strives to set a good example.

“I just want to lead a good example to the people on the team on and off the field,” Burge said. “The drive to compete keeps me going. I love competition and motivating others to compete.”

Her confidence spills over to the rest of the players as well as she is looking forward to what is ahead.

“We are a great team and we are going to pull ourselves together,” Burge said. “We are going to show everyone that we are Panther rugby for Eastern Illinois University and come out and play well on the 4th (of October).”

Carissa Burge and the rest of the women’s rugby team look to echo that sentiment against Lindenwood next Thursday.

Nick Ruffolo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].