A Year in Review: Rugby, football and baseball overcome challenges and garner community support throughout their seasons

Women’s rugby went undefeated, Big Green football clinched the Ivy League Championship and baseball ended their season ranked third in the Ivy League.

by Stephanie Sowa | 5/30/22 2:00am

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The 2021 Dartmouth Football Ivy League Championship ring, courtesy of Josh Greene.

Various Big Green sports have excelled throughout this past school year after the pandemic brought a series of disruptions to competition and training. The Dartmouth sits down with members of women’s rugby, football and baseball to recap their seasons. 

Women’s Rugby

In the fall of 2021, the women’s rugby 15s team went undefeated. They did not drop a single game and positioned themselves as the top team in the league. 

The Big Green defeated Brown University in Providence, 47-5, in order to secure the 2021 Ivy League Championship. Brown challenged Dartmouth, playing aggressively and forcing the Big Green to earn every point. This victory earned Dartmouth the top seed in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association Tournament.

In the NIRA semifinal, the Big Green faced Brown once again. Playing on Brophy Field, the team triumphed over Brown, 56-5. Army West Point, seeded as No. 3, caused an upset defeating No. 2 Harvard University in the semifinals. 

Cassie Depner ’25 said that the team looked forward to facing Army in the national championship final. 

“To be playing in the national championship with an undefeated record, first of all, you want to win a national championship,” Depner said. “You don’t want that to be your only loss the entire season.”

In addition to the timing of the title match coinciding with finals, COVID-19 travel and testing protocol also created stress for the team, Depner said. 

“The night before, all of our COVID tests came back from a few days prior and one of our starters had tested positive, so she was out,” Depner said. “That meant that our whole team had to test again the next day.”

While awaiting the new results, the players were confined to their rooms. Isolation the night before the championship created “extra chaos” to all of the other emotions everyone was already feeling, according to Depner. 

Another challenge for the Big Green was preparing to compete in a different atmosphere. 

“Our games are never at night, they are always in the middle of the day, and this game was at 7 p.m. in Army’s stadium with the stadium lights on,” Depner said.

In order to prepare for an inevitably large and boisterous crowd during the match, Depener said the Big Green tried to recreate this setting in its practices prior to the game.

“During the practices leading up to it, we would turn the music all the way up when practicing inside and our injured squad would be on the sidelines just screaming nothing in particular,” Depner said.

While Army brought an intense crowd filled with organized chants and cowbells, Dartmouth supporters also flooded the stands with their flags and green outfits. Dartmouth and Army are both physical teams, so it came as no surprise that the championship match would be aggressive and demanding for these players. 

“The Army game was hard, really really difficult, and they are a super physical team,” said Depner. “It was brutal.”

The grueling hours of preparation, though, paid off for the Big Green. 

“It was pretty special when the buzzer sounded and we realized that we won, and everyone was so happy,” Depner said. 

Football

After losing a season to the pandemic, Big Green football was motivated to secure another Ivy League Championship with the resurgence of Ivy play in the fall of 2021. Despite the challenges to remain focused during COVID-19, center Thomas Hartnett ’24 said it was exciting to have  fifth-year seniors return and help cultivate the talent on the team. 

“We definitely started off a little slow you know, you’ve got to get the rust off, but once we got moving, we were chugging along pretty well,” Hartnett said. “Midseason, losing to Columbia [University], it just reminded us how hard we worked to get to the point we were at and it was a reality check.”

As the team was disappointed with the lower pre-season ranking after bringing back several players from its championship team, the Columbia loss prompted the team to reevaluate their performance. 

Hartnett said that it was exciting for the Big Green to regain its footing midseason and be a true threat in the league. 

“That [24-17] win against Yale [on October 9] in overtime was electric,” Hartnett said. “That was so fun, especially [since it was] homecoming weekend with so many alumni and students.” 

The football team also brought many Dartmouth students and fans with them to its game against Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. Several Ffraternities and sororities were bussed to the Harvard stadium and many alumni living in the area came to cheer on the Big Green despite the foul weather.  

“It was a really tough, really gritty game with the stadium being cold, windy and rainy,” Hartnett said. “To go down there just beat them on their home turf by a field goal was even more impressive.”

After the win against Harvard, the team kept defeating its opponents, including No. 16 Princeton University. When they had secured the Ivy League Championship, everyone was incredibly excited to end the season with such a rewarding experience, according to Harnett. It was difficult to say goodbye to the graduating players, especially some of the fifth-years who promptly left after finals in the fall, he added. 

“I didn’t see most of those players until our banquet this past term, which was kind of weird,” Hartnett said. “They are great people and I cherish every time I get to see them.” 

Baseball

This season, baseball faced some difficult losses, including a low scoring game against Holy Cross on April 26 and a 2-14 loss against University of Massachusetts Lowell on April 5. Despite these difficulties, on May 15, the baseball team pulled off a dramatic upset against Columbia University this season at Biondi Park in Hanover. Prior to Dartmouth’s victory, Columbia had boasted a nineteen-game winning streak, making them a contender for the Ivy League Championship title. 

In the final match of Dartmouth’s season, the Big Green battled through a brutal 10-inning game against Columbia. At the bottom of the eighth inning, Columbia maintained a 10-4 lead. 

Nathan Cmeyla ’24, a member of the baseball team, said that in their final game of the season, chances of coming back after the eighth inning seemed dismal.

“We were pretty much out of it, we basically had no pitching,” Cmeyla said.

After the eighth, Dartmouth was able to narrow the lead with Columbia up10-8. Pitcher Matt Carey ’25 was able to retire the Lions promptly in his fourth appearance of this season, pushing the game into the ninth inning.

Cmeyla recalled coming up to bat and remembered his thoughts at the plate during the bottom of the ninth. 

“I was trying to not be the last out in the last game of the season,” Cmeyla said. “I thought, ‘Don’t strike out, don’t strike out.’”

Cmeyla ended up hitting his fourth home run of the season to tie the game. The Big Green was able to close out the game with a 12-11 win, adrenaline and excitement fueling the celebration.

“We were really excited at the end of the game because it was the greatest possible ending to the season that we could have had,” Cmeyla said.

With Dartmouth’s victory, Columbia lost the rights to host the Ivy League Championship Series. Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania shared the co-Ivy League regular season champion title, with Penn hosting the playoff series. Dartmouth secured a third place finish in the Ivy League, winning six out of the seven conference series of its season.

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