Women’s rugby finishes regular season with win over Quinnipiac

by Kaitlyn Lees | 10/14/19 2:15am

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The women’s rugby team finishes its regular season with a record of 2-2.

by Elsa Ericksen / The Dartmouth

Women’s rugby (2-2) defeated Quinnipiac University (2-4) Saturday afternoon by a score of 52-38 to close out its regular season 15s competition. After two consecutive losses in recent weeks to perennial rival Harvard University and emerging force United States Military Academy, Big Green rugby was able to rebound and provide a special Senior Day and Homecoming victory.  

With the victory, six seniors were able to walk away from their last Dartmouth home game on a positive note. The Big Green also defeated Quinnipiac last year when they were the defending national champions, 40-22. The win provides some momentum as the team prepares for a competitive and challenging postseason where the Big Green will seek to successfully defend last fall’s National Intercollegiate Rugby Association National Championship.

Last weekend, Dartmouth took on Army and fell 39-19, but saw positive progress in the game since a tough loss earlier in the season against Harvard. Lillian Johnson ’23 remarked that the team felt the game against Army was technically well played and they worked in the intervening week to continue to play with that skill level against Quinnipiac. 

Specifically, the team worked on its tempo in attack and executing a push defense to prevent the opposing team from going up the middle of the field. Going into the game, the team focused on the word “hunger,” meaning to stay hungry to play and hungry to win on the field. Seven Sassano ’22 said that hunger meant “coming up, hitting hard and keeping going when you’re tired.”

The Big Green set the tone of the game early with junior captain Marin Pennell ’21 providing the first score of the game. Anyoko Sewavi ’23 followed with her first collegiate score. Dartmouth scored 14 points before Quinnipiac got on the board. A try from Sophia Haley ’22, two tries from Idia Ihensekhien ’21 and two good kicks from Bitter put the Big Green ahead by 21 at halftime. 

The second half started much like the first with Abigail Schill ’22 scoring. After Quinnipiac scored, Dartmouth quickly responded with a try and conversion from Bitter and a try from Alison Tong ’20. Quinnipiac closed out the game with three tries but it was not enough to mount a successful comeback. Johnson said after the game that the team’s ability to execute on its work in practice and goals showed through the solid performance Saturday afternoon. 

Kristin Bitter ’23 continued her great play so far this season and was the team’s leading scorer for the day with 12 cumulative points. 2018 NIRA All American Ihensekhien also built on a strong season with two tries that made her the second highest scorer for the Big Green. Pennell, Tong, Haley, Schill and Sewavi all came through with their first tries of the season at Dartmouth’s last home game. 

“This game really showed how diverse our team is,” Sassano said. “It was a lot of different people working together to make something happen. It was definitely a big team effort.” 

Next up for the Big Green is an exciting rematch against Harvard University for the Ivy Rugby Championship on Oct. 26. In its first game against Harvard this season, the team got behind early and was down by 48 with ten minutes left. However, the Big Green mounted a late comeback charge and scored four tries to close out the game in dominating fashion despite the eventual 50-34 loss. The Big Green will seek to recreate that energy as it returns to Cambridge twice over the next month. 

“We need to throw away the first Harvard game and focus on what we can do,” Johnson said. She emphasized the importance of playing “whistle to whistle.” 

Key aspects of the mental game that the team has worked hard on, like being intentional and staying in the game, will be instrumental in order to build on this week’s success during the postseason. So far, the hard work has showed in its improved performances against Army and Quinnipiac. 

“Previously, we weren’t in the right mind space and got down on ourselves,” Sassano said. “This time, we were working together as a team and focused on the game the whole time. If we stay in that head space, no one can stop us.” 

The postseason will be an interesting and exciting test for the Big Green. After the Ivy Rugby Championship, the team will participate in the NIRA National Championship semifinal matchup on Nov. 9. A win there would give the Big Green a chance to defend its 2018 NIRA National Championship victory.