October 31, 2013
With just one game left in the season, Hamilton women’s rugby took the field against the reigning league champions in Cortland, NY. After a strong season, Hamilton was looking to wrestle the league crown away from SUNY Cortland and snag the top seed going into playoffs. A win was not enough though, as the team needed to score at least four tries to gain a bonus point and top RPI and Colgate in the standings. With all this on the line, Hamilton went into the game confident, and came out on top with a solid 50-27 victory against the Red Dragons.
The great victory came in no small part because of the effort from Hamilton fullback and kicker Emily Kaplan ’15. Not only did the team score eight tries, but Kaplan tacked on an additional five conversions to give Hamilton a solid victory. With their win on Saturday, and a convenient one-point deduction from Colgate for a late score report, Hamilton took the league title away from Cortland and relegated Colgate to third place, knocking them out of the playoffs, RPI will be the second seed out of the Excelsior League.
Winning the league capped a fantastic season for the Continentals, during which they rarely faced a game that they not only won, but did so in a dominating fashion.
Senior flyhalf Andee Bucciarelli said, “We did win pretty big most of the time. Our main advantage against other teams in our league is our speed.” After some rebuilding years, this has year has been the payoff that the seniors have been waiting for from four hard years of effort.
Captain Clare O’Grady ’14 could not be more pleased with how her team performed. “Stepping off the field after last weekend’s match and seeing the smiles, and even some tears, on my teammates assured me that all of the time we put into practices was absolutely worth it.” With such a solid performance during the season, HCWRFC now hopes to carry the momentum into the playoffs.
Although they are unsure whom they will take on in the first round of the playoffs, they have assured themselves a home game. Even with the league crown atop their heads, the team has no plays to rest on their laurels and is looking to keep the energy and intensity up that they have had all season.
Even with just three games separating them from the National Championships in Florida, the team knows that it will be an uphill battle. “Naturally, the ultimate goal is to make it to Nationals, but that’s a bit of a lofty goal,” said Bucciarelli. While this might be a challenge, Hamilton has the momentum in its favor and a league championship too.
Looking back on the season, the captains have been particularly impressed with the level of play coming from the newcomers. Hannah “Wags” Wagner ’15 says, “there isn’t one specific player who surprised me this season, but as a whole I would say that our group of rookies really stepped it up this season.” Having such a solid group of underclassmen coupled with the strength of the veterans no doubt contributed to Hamilton’s impressive season. The team finished the season 5-1 in the regular season with 20 team points and an additional six bonus points for their high scoring performances.
As the seniors get ready to finish their last season with the team, none have any doubt that they made the right decision to play rugby. Despite the constant threat of injury, hard work and challenging play, O’Grady and Bucciarelli both count rugby as one of the best things they have ever done at Hamilton. “I’ve said it before—joining the rugby team was the best decision I’ve made at Hamilton, and it still holds true now,” told Bucciarelli.
Looking ahead, the team will take on the second seed out of the Tri-State league, either Stony Brook or Vassar, in a home game on Nov. 9. If they win, they will move on to play at Vassar in the 16th round and quarterfinals. Although the team’s ultimate goal is to reach Nationals, winning the league has been a great reward in itself. As Bucciarelli put it, “Any more than that is just icing on the cake after a great season.”