Rugby teams take on Ivy League foes

Beinecke Plaza, Old Campus and Broadway were pretty nasty places to be during the torrential downpours over the weekend. But some Yalies had it even worse, rolling around in the mud in nippy 40 degree temperatures up in Providence all day Saturday and Sunday. Still, the men’s and women’s rugby teams wouldn’t have it any other way.

After strong seasons, both Yale club rugby teams traveled to Brown for the Ivy League Tournament over the weekend. The women’s and men’s teams placed second and fourth, respectively, in a damp, dirty, bruising weekend.

After winning against both Columbia, 52-0, and Dartmouth, 22-17, on Saturday, the Yale women placed second in the tournament following a rainy-day 14-0 loss to Brown on Sunday. The men, who bulldozed the opposition on their way to first prize at the Cherry Blossom Tournament in Washington, D.C., the previous weekend, did not fare quite as well. Yale lost to both Dartmouth, 37-0, and Princeton, 19-7, despite the momentum of a come-from-behind win over Brown in the first round.

Several members of the women’s team said their game against Dartmouth was the highlight of the tournament. Dartmouth scored three tries early in the game, taking advantage of confusion on the Yale defense. But the team picked up momentum at the end of the half, and they came back to win a game that came down to the wire.

The championship game loss to Brown was hard to stomach for the Yale women, who came in second last year as well.

“We controlled the ball for probably more time, but they had breakaways, and we had problems,” co-captain Emily Roller ’07 said.

The Brown team had been training all year, including a spring break tour to Africa. The Yalies, on the other hand, first took to the pitch again in March after a four-month hiatus. Team members felt that Yale’s strong performance despite a much less rigorous winter schedule than that of their hosts was a testament to the team’s depth.

“We have a lot of really strong athletes and players who know what they’re doing. I don’t think we have any really weak position,” fullback Samantha Stone ’07 said.

After winning their division for the first time last year, this is the first time in four years that the Yale women’s rugby team has ranked among the top 10 collegiate teams in the nation. The women attribute their success this season to both the leadership of the team’s 10 seniors and having a skilled player at every position.

“We have a huge senior class that’s so experienced and willing to share knowledge,” co-captain Katie O’Brien ’07 said. “They’re willing to sacrifice a lot coming to practice and playing all the time. We know each other a little bit better than a lot of other teams do.”

The team has been invited to the Division I Tournament at UMass-Amherst this weekend, which Roller described as very competitive. She said it was an honor even to be asked to play in this competition, called the ‘D-I elite’ by collegiate rugby insiders.

For the men’s squad, the Ivy League Tournament was the second of its two big tournaments in the spring. The team had defeated Harvard, who went on to win Ivy League Tournament on Sunday, twice during the fall, and were confident about their chances, especially given their success at the Cherry Blossom Tournament.

“We had a good feeling that this year we could take the championship,” outgoing President Sherman Wang ’07 said. “We played some of the best rugby [in Washington] we’ve ever played before. A lot of the team dynamic was there”

The second game of the day was against Dartmouth, the defending Ancient Eight champions. Members of the team attributed the loss to Dartmouth, a team that they had come close to defeating in the fall, to Dartmouth’s ability to control possession throughout the game.

“In the end, they had a more organized game plan and restricted our possession of the ball,” incoming captain Sean Walbridge ’08 said.

The game against Princeton for third place on Sunday came with pouring rain and cold temperatures. Although Yale was able to minimize Princeton’s possession time, the team was unable to capitalize on its opportunities. On top of that, the Princeton team used the weather to their advantage.

“The weather conditions, given their style of rugby, was better than Yale’s style of playing,” said Walbridge.

But every player is hoping that revenge will be sweet when the age-old rivalry with Princeton continues with a rematch showdown in New Haven this weekend.

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