Women’s rugby has started off the 15s fall season incredibly strong. To begin competition, the team won its first away match 29-3 in Connecticut against Sacred Heart University on Sep. 17. The Big Green captured another win at home on Sep. 24 against Quinnipiac University, 41-10.
This past weekend, the Big Green earned its most impressive win of this early streak. Dartmouth defeated Army West Point in Hanover, the same competitor the Big Green faced in last year’s national championship. As Dartmouth secured the championship victory, the Big Green knew Army would be prepared to fight in this rematch.
“We beat them on their home turf last year during the national championship in front of a huge crowd,” Depner said. “We knew that the very first hit was going to be important to set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Not only were the tensions of the match exacerbated by the championship outcome, but the teams were competing in a different environment this past weekend. At the championship, the Big Green traveled to West Point to showcase their talent during a freezing night game. This year, Cassie Depner ’25 said the team was able to play on a “gorgeous” afternoon day.
“It was definitely a different kind of excitement because we were really excited to be playing in front of our fans and we had something to prove,” Depner said. “We all had friends coming and there was a shuttle running from the school to make it easier for people to get here.”
Dartmouth successfully “defended the woods,” walking away with a 24-15 win on Brophy Field. In the first half, Anjali Pant ’24 had consecutive tries to sway the moment in the Big Green’s favor. Kristin Bitter ’23 and Simone Bautista ’26 built on that momentum to secure a 19-3 lead at the end of the half. Ava Procter ’24 said that the Big Green stayed wary of a comeback, even given the strong start.
“Army’s always hard because they play a good second half game, and we are definitely a first half team,” Procter said.
Lauren Ferridge ’23 credited Pant for raising the Big Green’s energy level in the first half and keeping the team’s momentum up.
“[Pant] had a great game and she scored two tries which really raised the momentum and got us into the game,” Ferridge said. “She definitely set the pace for the game and got us really engaged throughout the whole thing.”
As Army geared up for the second half, Dartmouth battled to maintain the lead against a physically demanding opponent. Army was able to narrow the gap, but the Big Green held them off defensively until a try from Bittersecured a Dartmouth victory at 24-15.
“It was definitely a huge confidence boost and it was like the first main turning point for us,” Ferridge said of the win. “We have Mount St. Mary’s [University] next week, which we know will be a good chance for us to work more on our continuity and figuring out our float.”
Ferridge added that the team’s consistency and “great rugby experience” — which contributes to the team’s depth — has been a strength. Procter also mentioned new advantages of this team as compared to last year’s championship roster.
“I think that we have a lot of really good runners this year,” Procter said. “We definitely have some speed that we may not have emphasized as much last year which I think is really cool.”
The victory against Army has the team excited moving forward, Depner said, as it gave them confidence in themselves as a team as compared to last year’s championship roster.
“We definitely knew that Army was going to be one of the more difficult games coming off a really good win against Quinnipiac,” Depner said. “We definitely still proved that we're still the same team and we're still just as good.”
She added that this match set the tone for the season and built the Big Green’s momentum for future “rivalry” matchups. Ferridge said that the team is using every opportunity to best prepare themselves for the match against Harvard University in two weeks’ time.
While defeating Harvard is a more immediate priority, Dartmouth has its eyes set on loftier heights: another national championship.
“We’re looking forward to keeping up the same level because obviously we're trying to get back to the national championship to do what we did last year,” Ferridge said. “But we're still having fun with each game leading up to that, and we're making so much improvement each game.”