Women’s rugby shows impressive grit in close defeat
Despite a tough battle in the rain, the Big Green fell to Harvard and looks to improve upon its already solid tactics as it closes out the end of the season.
As the rain poured down on Oct. 21, women’s rugby fell just short of Harvard University with a final score of 19-17. Despite the final result, the team showed impressive grit and adaptability — especially given the rough weather conditions present at the game. Head coach Katie Dowty — coaching her ninth season at Dartmouth — said she was proud of how hard the team fought throughout the game.
“I think it was the hardest I’ve ever seen a Dartmouth team play,” Coach Dowty said. “We lost by a conversion, but in a lot of aspects of the game, we had an advantage over them and showed great signs of growth.”
Katie Hansen ’27 echoed her coach’s sentiments, praising the team’s ability to adapt to tough conditions.
“We were pretty good at thinking on the fly and changing our structure to better fit the weather,” Hansen said. “The rain really limited where we could put the ball, but overall, it was super cohesive.”
Rugby is a multifaceted sport, and there are many ways to tactically approach a game depending on weather conditions, the team’s strengths and the opposition. In wetter conditions, games become more compact, as the ball becomes tougher to grip and pass toward the outside of the field. Nyah Cordero ’24 — one of the senior captains on the team — explained how the team’s preparation changes when they expect rain.
“Going into [a rainy game], one of our strengths which we work on is our directness,” Cordero said. “We knew that some of our lengthy passes might be risky, so our forwards do a really good job to make sure we have ball security.”
The game plan was executed effectively in the Crimson game and showcased the Big Green’s ability to play different styles of rugby at a consistently high standard.
“We tend to want to play this wide, expansive game that’s really pretty,” Coach Dowty said. “But it’s kind of eye-opening that we can play a game that tight and direct and still really dominate.”
However, the Big Green looks to continue building upon its kicking. Kicking can be used to score points when a player kicks the ball through the uprights or to progress the ball forward. Since players can only pass the ball behind them, kicking is a great opportunity to quickly progress the ball and get into the open space of a defense. Cordero mentioned how this approach is especially useful in wet conditions when handling the ball is difficult.
“We wanted to utilize more kicks than we already did,” Cordero said. “Since everyone was condensing down to make sure we could get the ball, there was often space behind where we could take advantage and get closer to our try-zone area.”
Hansen explained the ability of kicks to pin the opposition’s defense back, and how they can be incorporated into Dartmouth’s preparation for future games.
“We’re looking to kick a lot,” Hansen said. “We want to practice putting the ball into the deep corners and apply pressure off of that.”
The team’s flexibility — having multiple ways to attack their opponents — is one of their greatest strengths. They are continuing to develop various aspects of their game so that they can adapt to every new situation that arises.
Looking ahead, the team is practicing for their upcoming game against Brown University on Sunday, Oct. 29. The team has “a lot of different options” to attack Brown, according to Dowty, and finding the best option will be both the challenge and the key to the team’s success. One of the main goals for the team is to continue playing with immense heart and passion, Cordero and Dowty said.
“The biggest thing that’s a goal for me, and for our entire team, is to leave everything we have on the field,” Cordero said.
“I want them to keep playing each of these last four games with the same heart they showed this past Saturday,” Dowty said. “They didn’t leave an ounce of energy unused. That’s what it takes to win a final.”
After their showdown against Brown, the team has one regular season game against Princeton University on Nov. 4 before it will compete in the National Collegiate Rugby Association championships.
“As long as we have put [in] all of our hard work and effort, that’s plenty of legacy to have and leave with Dartmouth women’s rugby,” Cordero said.