First-years stand out in women's rugby success

by Kasey Rhee | 10/2/17 2:05am

The women’s rugby team continues to prove itself as a team to watch on the national scene. The team cruised through the most difficult part of their schedule undefeated, pulling out wins against two-time defending national champion and then-No. 1 Quinnipiac University and then-No. 3 United States Military Academy. This strong start comes with no small thanks to the first-years who have joined the ranks, with two women in particular, Idia Ihensekhien ’21 and Lilly Durbin ’21 already establishing themselves as standout contributors. 

Ihensekhien hails from Milton, Ontario and recently debuted with the Canadian U18 National Team this past summer in the Can-Am Series, playing as a prop.

“A prop supports players that crash a lot — sort of the leads in the scrum,” Ihensekhien said. “It’s more a physical position, we’re in the most contact.”

The position is usually dominated by the strongest, heaviest people on the team, according to Ihensekhien, but she brings a level of agility to the position. 

“I would say I’m a versatile player,” Ihensekhien said. “I can play different positions, and I have skills that props typically don’t. They’re usually bigger people and focus more on power.”

She attributed her advantage in both speed and agility to her experience with other sports, including basketball and the footwork required. Ihensekhien added that her sports background played a part in how she was introduced to rugby.

“An upperclassman suggested I try rugby after a volleyball game my freshman year,” Ihensekhien said. “I fell in love. I played a bunch of sports growing up, like volleyball, basketball, softball, I did some track. Rugby was great because it incorporated everything.” 

Her effectiveness on the field became apparent in the team’s season opener against Quinnipiac, where she was key in set pieces and drove home a try of her own. When asked about her thoughts on that game, she said that she felt Quinnipiac would be more of an athletic team, and that it became apparent that Quinnipiac had more rugby knowledge. She also highlighted the speed of the play as a major factor. 

“I found myself really tired by the second half,” Ihensekhien said. “We have good hands, and our backs were able to get the ball to our captain so she could finish off and score the try.”

Durbin is an inside center joining the Big Green from Murietta, California. Like Ihensekhien, Durbin came to Hanover with international experience as a member of the USA Women’s Sevens National Team and has toured with them to countries such as France and Japan, while also captaining the USA Rugby U20 National Team on multiple international tours. 

Similar to Ihensekhien, Durbin attributed her success to playing other sports.

“I started as a soccer player and reading the game is definitely something that I think translates over to rugby,” Durbin said.

This perspective has given her an ability to recognize space and better read the game, she said.

Durbin described the rugby culture as her favorite aspect of the sport. She mentioned the rugby tradition of eating with the opposing team after a game as an example of the camaraderie she’s found playing at Dartmouth and for Team USA.

“That’s what I really love about it, because even though you’ve just gone to war, you can come together and socialize in a big rugby family,” Durbin said.

With these two on the team, the future looks bright for Big Green women’s rugby.

“We’ve already been coming together so fast,” Durbin said. “Not a lot of people would expect an Ivy League school to be big for a sport like rugby, so I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish together.”