Women’s rugby claims second in collegiate national championship
The team defeated Army West Point in the quarterfinals and Harvard University in the semis — two teams that had defeated the Big Green in the regular season — before losing to Lindenwood University in the finals.
Women’s rugby competed in the Collegiate Rugby Sevens National Championships at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. last weekend, taking home a second place finish.
The team finished the fall 15s season with an undefeated 9-0 record, winning most of its games by at least 15 points. At the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association Championships, the team bested No. 4 Brown University in the semifinal and No. 3 United States Military Academy West Point in the finals to win the NIRA Championship for the first time in three years.
The season did not come without its share of challenges. Right before the team was set to leave for the Ivy Sevens Tournament on April 23, an outbreak of COVID-19 on the team limited the roster as quarantined players could not travel to the tournament. Amerson also noted that training during the winter term was difficult with one of Hanover’s coldest winters on record. Additionally, according to Emily Henrich ’22, the team underwent a transition period because the team is young and focuses primarily on 15s rather than 7s.
“This spring season was the result of the effort of the more than thirty people on the roster, not just the people who went to nationals,” Henrich said. “The best competition we got was playing each other at practice and scrimmages.”
The team was led by head coach Katie Dowty, who kept the team motivated by encouraging them to focus on the end goal of the spring season throughout the term.
“Our coaches have been so supportive through the whole year,” Amerson said. “When players got down in winter, the coaches kept pushing them. Coach Dowty motivated us by saying we had potential to be national champions in sevens.”
At the national championships, the team was also able to learn a lot from its challenges in the regular season. West Point beat Dartmouth in the semifinals of the Crimson Sevens Tournament. Dartmouth also fell to Harvard University in the Ivy Sevens to take second at the tournament. The Big Green turned those results on their heads in the postseason, though, beating both teams in last weekend’s championship tournament.
“We played two tournaments before we went to Georgia, and it definitely took us time to build up to the Georgia performance,” Kristin Bitter ’23 said. “We built our team during the season, and saw lots of things from Crimson Sevens to work on. We improved even more from Ivy Sevens. By the time we played in Georgia, we knew how to work well with each other.”
The team went into the tournament seeded in sixth place out of the eight teams competing and finished second off the back of several upsets.
On day one of the tournament, the Big Green lost the first game to Lindenwood University 31-0. The team rallied and beat West Chester University 24-7 and Brown 36-10. The second day featured rematches against West Point and Harvard. Dartmouth beat West Point 14-10 in the quarterfinals and advanced to the finals after beating the Crimson 22-17. In the title match, the Big Green fell once more to the Lindenwood Lions, this time by a score of 32-0, taking second place.
Older players on the team, such as Ale Ada ’22, pointed to the freshman class for the hard work they have put into the team. Bitter added that the freshmen were able to come onto a good team and fill shoes that were left behind by seniors and raise an already high bar.
“The team is really young, our platform going into next year is great, and we’re really hopeful for next year,” Bitter said. “We have high expectations for next year, and we’re not worried about filling them.”
Also already looking forward to the next season, Ada emphasized the high hopes she holds for the program after she graduates this year.
“I know the team will excel with everything they have learned this past year, and we have really talented players,” Ada said. “Coach Dowty also tells players to leave the jersey behind better than we found it, and the players plan to do just that.”