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After losing its first two games, the women’s rugby team (0-2) is hoping that this weekend will give it a chance to improve its record.

Losses to Fordham and the New York Rugby Club have not dispirited the Bulldogs. Despite having a game on Wednesday against Southern Connecticut State University cancelled because of bad weather, the team feels ready to deal with what should be tough competition this Saturday and Sunday at the Ivy League Championship in Princeton, N.J.

The Bulldogs will first face Radcliffe, the Harvard women’s rugby team, on Saturday. While acknowledging that Radcliffe would be a formidable opponent, Yale’s forwards captain Emily Lehrer ’03 said that Radcliffe is definitely beatable.

“They rely on a few key players,” Lehrer said. “If we can shut them down we should do fine.”

If the Bulldogs beat Radcliffe, they will then play the winner of the Cornell-Columbia match; if not, they enter a losers’ bracket. However, all teams at the tournament will get to play at least three games.

If the Bulldogs want to stay out of the losers’ bracket, they will need to control their aggression on the field. In the Fordham game, Yale’s team led 5-0, equivalent to a one-touchdown lead in football, when three players were penalized for “high tackles” and were “sin binned” or sidelined for the rest of the game.

According to rugby rules, when a player is sidelined the team must play one person, or in this case three people, short for the remainder of the game. Thus, Yale had to play Fordham with a three-woman disadvantage. Yale backs captain Marjorie Friedman ’03 was shocked that the referee made such a call.

“It was a really bizarre game,” Friedman said. “I’ve played a lot of games, and I’ve seen one player been sin binned, but never three at once.”

Despite their extreme disadvantage in the number of women on the field, the Bulldogs held Fordham to two additional tries for a final score of 10-5.

Last weekend, when Yale took on the non-collegiate New York Rugby Club’s B team, they faced a very different level of competition. Given that five members of the New York team’s “A-Side” play on the U.S. National Team, the Bulldogs had a difficult time keeping up with their competition.

“They were just bigger and better, and we were playing without a few of our key players,” Friedman said. “Everybody played well and people adjusted well to their new positions.”

The New York Rugby Club won 41-0, but Yale made the best of a hard loss.

“It was really a learning experience,” rugby club president Caitlin Dean ’05 said.

Now, as the Bulldogs prepare for upcoming tournaments like the Ivy League Championship this weekend, a match against Smith College on April 19, and the “Best of the East” Tournament on April 26, their confidence is growing. Team member Catherine Izard ’06 remarked that it takes a while for new team members to learn the ropes of the game, but that they are catching on quickly.

“The thing about rugby is that nobody plays before they get here,” Izard said. “It’s just like high school, where the older you are the more likely you are to be good.”

However, team members agree that this year’s freshman class has learned remarkably quickly. Lehrer hopes the team will adopt a more offensive posture.

“I think that right now we’re playing in a very organized and structured manner, with a lot of defense,” Lehrer said. “We’re hoping to see a more aggressive offense in the future.”