Henrich awarded as nation’s best women’s college rugby player

by Kaitlyn Lees | 5/13/19 2:30am

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Emily Henrich’s star performance her freshman year earned her the MA Sorensen award, the first ever for Dartmouth.

Source: Courtesy of Emily Henrich

Looking at the résumé of Dartmouth women’s rugby’s team, it is hard to believe the team has only been a varsity program for four years. This year, the team has a national championship, five First Team All Americans, a Fulbright Scholar and now, one winner of the MA Sorensen Award. Emily Henrich ’22 became the first Dartmouth rugby player to receive the MA Sorensen Award. Presented by the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, the award is given annually to the top women’s rugby player in the country. Kat Ramage ’19 was also nominated for the award. 

Although just a freshman, Henrich has already cultivated an impressive resumé. Last fall, she led the Big Green in tries and was third in conversions, racking up a total of 73 points for the team. She scored an important last try in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association National Championship to push Dartmouth ahead of Harvard for the victory. Following the fall season, she was one of five Dartmouth players, including Milla Anderson ’19, Idia Ihensekhien ’21, Camille Johnson ’19 and Ramage, to be named to the NIRA First Team All-American Roster. Henrich has also been recognized at the highest level for women’s rugby in the United States. In November, she was named to the women’s national team roster and competed at internationals in England.

 “I’m so proud of Emily for her to win this award,” Ramage said. “She’s incredibly deserving and has given one hell of a season.” 

Dartmouth rugby is a family affair for Henrich, as both her mother, Lisa Henrich ’92, and father, Chris Henrich ’90, played rugby for the Big Green. Henrich began playing the sport at just six years old while watching her parents compete in Canada. Growing up, she was also a three-sport athlete in high school, playing soccer and basketball on top of rugby. The choice to come play for Dartmouth was so natural that Henrich resisted at first. 

“I grew to love the coaches, the team and the school in my own way.” Henrich said. She expressed a particular excitement with the direction the program was heading and their recent successes as a team. 

In addition to her impressive history with rugby, Henrich is also no stranger to the challenges of competing at a high level while balancing her studies. She missed two weeks of classes in the fall to compete on the national team. 

“I came back from England basically straight into finals season and our national championship,” Henrich said.

Despite her extended time away from school, she praised the support Dartmouth provided her to be able to participate in such a unique opportunity while furthering her academics. Fittingly, the award’s namesake, Maryanne Sorensen, was a prolific rugby player who later transitioned into a different career by becoming a doctor. 

Since the team went varsity her freshman year, Ramage said she has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the team into one of the best programs in the country. As one of the first recruited players, she has seen the team grow from not qualifying for the national championship her freshman year to winning her senior year. 

Head coach Katie Dowty remarked on Ramage’s impact on the team. 

“To have a player of her caliber join the program really made a statement for players behind her like [Henrich],” she said.

Indeed, Henrich said she has looked up to her teammate since high school, as they occasionally played against each other before her tenure at Dartmouth. In the fall, Ramage tied for fourth on the team in points and second in conversions. Her first-team All-American status marks her third consecutive time receiving the accolade. She has been nominated twice for the MA Sorensen Award. 

The depth and skill of women’s rugby’s coaching staff, made up by Dowty and assistant coaches Stacey Bridges and Kelly Sullivan, has been key to program’s success, according to Henrich. 

“They have such a wealth of knowledge that it’s hard not to develop under them because they just care so much,” Henrich said. “They’re willing to devote all their time and attention into this team and it really shows on game day.”

Ramage and Henrich were named to the 2019 USA Rugby Performance Squad, the highest development tier for women’s rugby. Over the summer, USA Rugby will pick a national team from that squad to compete against New Zealand, Canada and England over the summer in San Diego, CA. 

This summer, Henrich will train at the Olympic training center for rugby in San Diego and plans to compete in the rugby sevens at the Pan American Games in Peru and the 15s Super Series. She also said she has plans to take next year off in order to prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo and hopefully be able to represent the United States there. 

Ramage also has plans to continue her rugby career after her time at Dartmouth. This summer, she plans on staying on campus to help with preseason and continue training here. As a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the U.S., she said she has also considered possibly playing professional rugby there, where the sport is more established compared to the United States. 

As rugby features two different formats of competition, 15s and 7s, Dartmouth’s season is not quite over. The Big Green competes in the more traditional 15s format in the fall while tackling the 7s format in the spring. The team will compete for its second national championship of the year at the USA Rugby 7s National Championship in Tucson, AZ on May 24-26.