Women’s rugby beats Harvard for fourth Ivy League championship

by Kaitlyn Lees | 10/28/19 2:25am


The Big Green finished its fall season with a 3-2 record.

by Elsa Ericksen / The Dartmouth Staff

Women’s rugby defeated Harvard University 41-22 on Saturday afternoon to claim its fourth Ivy League rugby championship, improving its fall season record to 3-2.  

Dartmouth won the title three years in a row from 2015-17, but the last year, the Big Green fell to Harvard in the Ivy championship before ultimately defeating the Crimson a few weeks later to become the 2018 National Intercollegiate Rugby Association champions. The Big Green will face the Crimson for a third time this season in a few weeks in the NIRA semifinals.

The first half was a tight contest between the two teams.

“It was a huge group effort. Everyone was really in it and checked in,” said co-captain Marin Pennell ’21. “We were feeling pretty solid the first half.” 

Dartmouth was able to get on the board first with a penalty kick from Kristin Bitter ’23 to take a 3-0 lead. Harvard briefly took over the lead before Idia Ihensekhien ’21 and Bitter provided a try and a conversion to give the Big Green a three point edge. The half ended in dramatic fashion with Pennell preventing a last minute score from Harvard by holding them at the try line. 

Harvard gained the lead in the beginning of the second half but Ihensekhien and Bitter came through big again with a try and a kick to put Dartmouth ahead by five. Abby Schill ’22 and Ihensekhien both added to the Big Green’s score with tries while Bitter provided yet another conversion. 

The 60-minute mark was where head coach Katie Dowty said the momentum shifted for the Big Green. A try from Becca Jane Rosko ’20 brought the score to 34-17. Harvard was able to score once more before Bitter put it away with a try in the final seconds of the game. Bitter continued her strong effort and lead the team with 16 points. Ihensekhien also built upon her solid season and trailed just behind Bitter with 15 points.

Dowty said she was impressed with the team’s ability to deal with the lead changes and stay in the game throughout and with the performance of some of the team’s younger players who stepped up. 

“The league is very competitive so you can’t take any minutes off,” Dowty said. “You have to be out there competing for the full 80 minutes.”

Harvard is annually one of the Big Green’s toughest competitors. In the second game of the season, Dartmouth got behind early during their first match up with Harvard and suffered a tough loss despite a thrilling second half comeback effort. Since then, the team has been working to improve upon what let them down in September, particularly the mental game. 

Pennell said the team was not checked in mentally during the first Harvard game and made “rogue decisions.” Going into this game, the players continued to focus on using mental checklists to zero in on their performance and working together as a cohesive group. Checklists help the team stay focused on both their individual and team goal and plan. 

Their progress showed in a well-fought game against Army West Point and a victory in its last regular season game against Quinnipiac. The season long hard work paid off big time in Saturday’s matchup.

 “You could really feel the energy we all were buzzing with going into and throughout Saturday’s game,” Rosko said.

With the Ivy championship under its belt, the Big Green heads into the final leg of the fall season with cautious confidence as they seek to defend the 2018 national championship title. 

“The win is important to us, to bring back the Ivy championship, but I’d say we still have a lot of gas to burn the rest of the season,” Rosko said. 

With this mindset, the Big Green returns to action on Nov. 9 in the NIRA National Championship semifinal match against Harvard for the third time this season.