Women’s rugby takes second place in 7s national championship

by Elijah Czysz | 5/28/19 2:00am


A talented group of first-years and seniors anchored the dominant women’s rugby team in the 2018-19 season.

Source: Courtesy of Emily Henrich

The Dartmouth women’s rugby team ended its season with a second place finish this Memorial Day weekend in the USA Rugby College 7s National Championship in Tucson, AZ, falling to Lindenwood University in the championship game. It was the team’s best placement to date at the event. The second-place finish came after the team won a national championship title in 15s play in the fall and secured a second-place finish in the Ivy League 7s tournament. 

“All in all, we’re feeling really great about this weekend … second place isn’t bad. It’s not the result we wanted in the end but [we] went up against the best teams in the nation and we came out pretty close to the top,” said team captain Camille Johnson ’19.

The Big Green began the weekend with a sweep of its pool play opponents. The sweep began with a 26-12 victory over Pennsylvania State University, last year’s runner up. The Big Green came back from a 7-0 deficit with two tries from Emily Henrich ’22 and one try from Ariana Ramsey ’22.

The two first-years were prolific over the course of the weekend. During pool play alone, Henrich contributed five tries and Ramsey had three.

“I was really pumped to be able to put ourselves out there because a lot of these teams we don’t see in regular competition, just because of regional differences and league differences, so it was really exiting to be able to test ourselves,” Henrich said.

Henrich’s impressive performance was not uncharacteristic. This year, she was awarded the MA Sorenson Award, which is awarded by USA Rugby to the top women’s college player in the country.

After the victory over Penn State, the Big Green steamed past American International College, 28-7. In the first half alone, the Big Green put up a commanding 21-0 lead. 

A greater challenge was Lindenwood, the defending national champion since 2017. According to Henrich, Lindenwood’s consistent success was their pitfall coming into a match in pool play against Dartmouth.

“I think they came out a little flat and underestimated us,” Henrich said.

Dartmouth got ahead with two tries in the first four minutes of play, but 12 consecutive points from Lindenwood put the game at 12-10 until Sophia Haley '22 scored the game-winning try.

Entering semifinals on Sunday, the Big Green first faced Life University. After what Milla Anderson ’19 called a “frantic” first half, Dartmouth pulled out a decisive 26-7 victory. Henrich contributed three tries, and Ramsey one.

“During halftime, we talked about calming it down and playing our game… coming into a half tied really shows what teams wants it more in the second half,” Anderson said.

In a rematch of pool play, Lindenwood bested the Big Green in the final game 24-7. Despite being exhausted from pool play and the semifinals, both teams brought their best for the finals.

“We both came out harder and stronger, and after four games, you’re tired and you’re sore and everything hurts, and so it’s really just who can come out with the most energy,” Johnson said. “I think we both put up a good fight, but Lindenwood happened to come out on top of a few plays. Sevens is a quick game, where everything can change in a snap of your fingers, and they got the best of a few of those moments.”

Even though its season ended with a loss, a second-place finish represents a big step for the women’s rugby program. Last season, it was bested by constant Ivy League rival Harvard University to finish the tournament in eighth place. The Big Green felt some vindication from its loss to Harvard (and its loss to Harvard in this season’s Ivy 7s tournament) when Harvard finished the weekend behind Dartmouth, in third. 

Part of what pushed the Dartmouth program toward its recent success is the senior class. Henrich cited Kat Ramage ’19, who Henrich said was the first women’s rugby player recruited by Dartmouth, as a major contributor.

“[Ramage] basically helped start this program. She’s part of the reason I’m here as well, because I looked up to her so much in high school,” Henrich said.

Henrich also expressed praise for Johnson, who she said “held the team together,” and Anderson, who was “a constant force to be reckoned with.”

“I don’t think it’s set in yet … the four years on this team have been the best four years,” Johnson said. “I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gained a lot. I love this team and I’m really going to miss it.”

The Big Green hopes to continue its upward trajectory next fall, when it will strive to defend its 15s national championship and finally break Lindenwood’s 7s championship streak. Johnson is hopeful about her team’s prospects next year.

“We have all the skill, the speed the strength,” she said. “This is such a talented team. We really have everything we need to beat any team out there.”

Justin Kramer contributed reporting.

Correction appended (May 29, 2019): The original version of this article incorrectly attributed the game-winning try in the first game against Lindenwood to Camille Johnson. In fact, Sophia Haley scored the final try. The article has been updated accordingly.