Women's rugby overtakes Cornell to secure bid to Nationals
"We are really excited to go to nationals," team president Melanie Pastuck '11 said. "Qualifying this year is a big deal, especially for the seniors."
Dartmouth finished its regular season with a 3-2 record, with its losses coming at the hands of conference elites Army and Brown University. Cornell, meanwhile, was the champion of the New York division, with only one loss in its regular season.
"Our defeat over Cornell is not only important for our team, it also establishes the dominance of New England rugby over New York state," Pastuck said.
Dartmouth went into the match having won its first playoff game against the University of Buffalo, but with one defeat in the second round to Brown University, meaning that winning the Cornell match was the last chance to secure a bid to Nationals.
The match against Cornell started out as a defensive battle. The first score of the game came from Cornell at the nine-minute mark, when the Big Red converted a #8 touch-down under the posts to claim a 7-0 lead.
Dartmouth answered quickly with its own under-the-post #8 touchdown, though kicker Ginna Roach '12 missed on the attempt at converting her own try. Cornell scored again on a penalty kick right before halftime, stretching its lead to 10-5.
"The game was closer than we were expecting," co-captain Grace Dowd '11 said. "Both teams fought really hard, and it was a very intense game."
The Big Red scored again to make the score 15-5, forcing the Big Green offense to finally take a stand. Co-captain Kristen Liu '11 cut the lead in half with a touchdown, but the conversion from the edge fell short on the kick.
With only five minutes left, Dartmouth still needed a converted try to stay alive. Center Meg Thorn '11 drove over the try line and Val Hanson '11 converted a drop-kick to put the Big Green in the lead, 17-15.
Cornell had one final scoring opportunity in the match, after Dartmouth lost control of a Big Red kickoff. The Big Green, however, engineered a last-minute goal line stand which included thwarting a Cornell penalty at the five-meter line to secure the victory.
"In the second half, we were able to rally against them," Pastuck said. "We really maintained possession and got some good offense going."
Prior to the Cornell match, the Big Green defeated the University of Buffalo 27-5 in the first round of NRU playoffs to advance to the final four, in which the team was defeated by Brown in the semifinal match.
The Bears scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the match, but was held scoreless for the remainder of the half. The Big Green was not able to take advantage or get its own offense going in the first half, however.
"Brown is a very good team, and they are a contender for the national title," Pastuck said. "We played well against them in the first half, as they only scored twice on us, but we could not stay close in the second half."
The floodgates opened for the Bears' offense as soon as the second half started. Brown poured on for seven more tries and eventually won the match by a score of 55-0.
In the final, Army defeated Brown to claim the NRU Final Four Championship. Army and Brown received first and second seeds in the region, respectively.
The third-place finish punched Dartmouth's ticket to nationals, which will take place next spring. It marks the 10th time the Big Green has qualified for nationals in the program's history and the second time in three seasons.
"We've been working hard this season and even during the summer for this weekend," Dowd said. "Although we have some phenomenal athletes on the team, it has definitely been a team effort from all of us."
The Big Green will continue to train through the winter and will go on a spring training trip during spring break.