Women’s rugby gets first victory of inagural varsity season

| 9/22/15 6:01pm

At its inaugural game as a varsity program, the women’s rugby team ushered in a new era with a 77-5 win against the University of Pennsylvania on Sept. 13 at Brophy Field. This immediate success was followed by a tough loss against Quinnipiac University last Saturday, 5-43.

“Having been elevated to varsity status has created a lot of unknowns for the team since March, and [Penn] was the first time we were all back together playing our game,” Yeja Dunn ’16 said. “I don’t think any of us knew what would happen, and the win plus the amazing time we had playing together really shows that this season is going to be one for the books.”

The game against the Quakers was originally scheduled for this past Saturday in Philadelphia, but because of Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to the city, the game was rescheduled to be played the weekend before in Hanover, head coach Katie Dowty said.

“We called it ‘an act of God,’” Dowty said. “It was an early match that we wanted to get in, and we’re really thankful that [Penn] came up.”

Dartmouth started off strong as five different players recorded tries by the midpoint of the first half to put the Big Green up 29-0. After allowing the sole try on the day for the Quakers, the Big Green added 19 more points for a score of 48-5 heading into the intermission. In the second half, the women extended their lead another 29 points.

“It was nice to have our inaugural match be our home opener,” Dowty said.

Dunn had three tries, accounting for 15 points, both game-highs, while Audrey Perez ’17 added two for the Big Green. Penn was playing a player down, which made it easier for the Dartmouth women to find space on the field in which to attack, Dunn said.

Ultimately, rescheduling the game against Penn to precede the one against Quinnipiac proved beneficial. “I think it’s always great to have more time than less time on the field with your team,” Dunn said. “So having those 80 minutes under our belt before Quinnipiac was great in getting to play together and relearn each others’ styles on the field.”

The team faced a strong challenger in Quinnipiac, a team that qualified for the final four in last year’s national tournament. The Big Green held its own in the first half, being the first to score and ending the half just behind the Bobcats at 14-7. The first points on the board were recorded by Big Green flanker Lilie Zhang ’18.

In the first half, “We were very good with keeping to our plan and focusing on our set pieces, scrums and lineouts,” Dowty said. “[Quinnipiac] wants to keep the ball moving down the line and to the outside, but our defense shut them down on the outside and we controlled the tempo of the game in the first half.”

In the second half, however, the Bobcats responded by attacking up the middle and running away with the game by scoring an additional 29 points in the half.

“When we stepped on the field for the second half, I think our minds weren’t where they were in the first half due to the heat, exhaustion and actual physical time break between halves,” Dunn said. “There was a period of five to 10 minutes where I think they scored the majority of their tries, and this was in part to our lack of discipline in that time.”

Nonetheless, the team remained pleased with their performance against Quinnipiac.

“I was very happy to see the girls adapted to our new system well,” Dowty said. “We’re relying on our forwards to be very dynamic passers and playmakers.”

The team also received strong rookie performances from Milla Anderson ’19, Alex Stendahl ’19, Kendall Ronzano ’17 and Kat Ramage ’19.

“Our rookies were outstanding — they played other flow sports in the past so they have a good understanding of the game and some natural aggression,” Dowty said. “You wouldn’t have been able to tell that they were new to the sport.”

Ashley Zepeda ’18 is confident that by the next game, the team will have continued to improve greatly. Zepeda attributes much of the team’s improvement to the new varsity status of the program.

The biggest change, she said, has been the “privilege” that has come along with being elevated to varsity status.

“It was more stressful as a club team because we were always fighting for resources,” Zepeda said. “Now, its easier to be the best we can because we don’t have to worry about that.”

The Big Green will host its next three games, beginning with Brown University at noon on Saturday, Oct. 3.