Rugby team to compete for second consecutive Ivy League title

by Danielle Okonta | 11/4/16 12:08am

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The Women's Rugby team competes for the Ivy League Championship this Sunday.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

After defeating Brown University 45-14 Homecoming weekend, the women’s rugby team is set to play Harvard University for the Ivy Championship on Sunday.

This will be the second consecutive championship match for the Big Green, who defeated Brown 19-12 in the Ivy 15s Tournament last year. The women boast a perfect 5-0 conference record and a 6-1 overall record despite having no seniors and eight juniors. The team’s only fault this season came from a 12-63 loss against the United States Military Academy, a team that has graduated several USA Rugby All-Americans.

The Big Green managed to overcome the early loss as well as a hand injury to Becca Rosko ’20, going on a five-game win streak beginning on Sept. 17 in a contest against the Bears.

Even after shutting out Columbia University 110-0 and defeating Princeton University 84-15, Kat Ramage ’19 said the high of the season thus far was the semifinal match against Brown.

“We executed a lot of what our coaches wanted to do and it is a great game to have played leading up into the Ivy finals,” she said.

Since qualifying for championships, the team has been eagerly preparing for the game against the Crimson, who beat the Tigers in their semifinal match, 55-0.

On Oct. 1, the Big Green defeated Harvard in a close match, 22-19.

Frankie Sands ’20 said the team has been reviewing game footage from that win in order to improve offensive and defensive plays.

Isabel Boettcher ’20 said the team is feeling confident, noting how the players and coaches have been discussing strategies geared toward attacking.

In last month’s matchup against the Crimson, Boettcher recorded three tries. This season, she has recorded 12 tries and a conversion, while Sands made nine tries. For both athletes, two of those tries came during the critical match against the Bears last week.

Sands said the team has been looking forward to this championship matchup all season.

“We have been harping a lot on our urgency,” she said. “We are really excited.”

Undoubtedly, the stakes are high for the defending league champions, but the team will focus on playing the game itself and incorporating strategies based on the last matchup with the Crimson, head coach and Harvard alumna Katie Dowty said.

“We play a very expansive running game whereas Harvard is very forward dominated and will play a tight power game,” she said. “We are going to make sure that we match them at the set piece and expand our running game even more than the last matchup.”

This week, the women have been working on defense, Sands said. Using pads, players practiced clearing out an offensive push and rucks.

For Dowty, this style of aggressive defense is characteristic of the Big Green, which usually puts opponents under pressure when combined with a quick offensive.

Regarding its strong attacks, the team is also working on maintaining possession of the ball, Boettcher said.

“One of our goals is to keep the ball alive,” she said.

Similar to the Big Green, Harvard’s rugby team is also relatively young, with only one senior and four juniors on its roster. The lone senior Claire Collins recorded two tries against the Big Green while sophomore Caitlin Weigel added a third to bring the point deficit to three in the Crimson’s only loss of the season. In the semifinal match against the Tigers, many of the tries came from freshmen and sophomores, including the Crimson’s Delia Hellander and Genevieve Quirion.

Despite these similarities in the athleticism of each team’s respective underclassmen, Dowty said the Big Green is a much stronger team than it was in October.

“We have progressed every week,” she said. “We set goals for ourselves that don’t have anything to do with the scoreline and be sure to play to our own standards and improve on each performance.”

Regarding her connection to Harvard, Dowty said her allegiance is definitely with the Big Green and noted the mutual respect both teams have for each other.

“It’s a lot more fun going into a game that you know is going to be a tight battle, especially when it is a team that you really respect how they play and treat the opposition,” she said.

Even though the Big Green is focusing on playing well and getting the win like any other match, Dowty said winning a consecutive championship would be an extremely special moment.

“We have a lot of support we would like to make proud,” she said. “To win would make us feel proud of all the work we have done all season.”

Sunday’s game begins at 2 p.m. at Harvard.