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The Dartmouth
June 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Women’s rugby takes down previously undefeated Harvard

The Big Green came back from trailing 16 points in the second half against Harvard to maintain its undefeated record.

rugby harvard photo.jpg

On Saturday, the Big Green rugby team traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to play its first game of the season against Ivy League opponent Harvard University. Both Dartmouth and Harvard entered the contest undefeated with 4-0 records. The Big Green fell behind early, entering the second half down 5-19, but was able to rally for a 31-29 victory after a try in the closing seconds of the game.

The Big Green has now come away with a win in all five of its games this season, extending its winning streak to 14 games, going back to last year.

Anjali Pant ’24 said that being the reigning national champions has “put a chip on our shoulders.” 

“It also showed us we can set the bar high,” Pant said. “We went into the season knowing we had a target on our backs and so far we’ve stayed ahead. Our freshmen have come in and made an impact and our older teammates have also continued to lead.”

Before the game, both the Big Green and Crimson took on and defeated Quinnipiac University. Dartmouth won by a score of 41-10, and Harvard came out on top 48-19. Dartmouth had already ended Army West Point’s undefeated streak earlier in the season, beating the team 24-15 in Hanover. In addition, head coach Katie Dowty was captain of the Crimson rugby team when she was a student at Harvard, so on Saturday she coached the Big Green against her old squad.

Kristin Bitter ’23 was a player to watch this match after scoring six conversions in a win against Mount St. Mary’s University last week. She once again made a massive impact this week, connecting on the game-winning conversion against Harvard. 

Entering the second half with a deficit on the scoreboard, Dartmouth had work to do if it wanted to continue its winning streak. Quickly, the Big Green started to close the gap, with Lauren Ferridge ’23 driving her way to the try line to bring the score to 10-19. Harvard, however, which was averaging nearly 70 points per match entering play on Saturday, did not allow the Big Green to so easily get back into the game. The Crimson scored another try, extending its lead to 16. After that score, though, the Big Green held strong defensively, holding Harvard to just one more score on a three-point conversion kick for the rest of the contest as its offense found its rhythm, with a try from fifth-year Seven Sassano and subsequent conversion from Bitter to bring Dartmouth back within nine. 

Adrienne Coleman ’25 credited the momentum shift to a pivotal defensive play by Josie Harrison ’25, an interception and try that cut Harvard’s lead to two.

“Harrison’s interception and subsequent try in the last quarter of the game completely changed the tempo and intensity,” Coleman said. “After that, we were able to successfully implement many of the tactical components of the game we practice every week, winning us the game.” 

The Big Green did not let the Crimson players in the try zone for the entire last 30 minutes of the contest, but with three minutes left in the game, Harvard scored a penalty kick, putting the Crimson up five with three minutes remaining. On its next possession, Dartmouth found the try zone, tying the score at 29-29 and setting up Bitter’s game-winning conversion — her third of the contest.

After a hard-fought win against another top team, Cassie Depner ’25 said it was important for the team to continue to hold itself to a championship-level standard.

“After winning the national championship last year, something we emphasized from the beginning was not becoming complacent with our ability to perform as a team … especially because our personnel looks different this year from last,” Depner said. “This season is especially significant after the 2021 championship because it has the potential to set a new standard for what [Dartmouth women’s rugby] means.”

The Big Green’s season continues against Princeton University on Saturday, Oct. 22. Last time these two teams faced each other in 2017, Dartmouth won 57-0.