December 5, 2013
Hamilton College Women’s Rugby Football Club (HCWRFC) made club sport history last month when the team made it to the second round of the Division II Rugby Playoffs, known as the American Collegiate Rugby Association Playoffs. This is the farthest the team has gone since fall 2008, when it won the Division II State Championship and reached the regional playoffs as part of the New York State Rugby Conference in Premier Division I.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, HCWRFC went up against Bowdoin at a tournament held at Vassar in the most challenging game of the season yet. Though this game ended in a loss for HCWRFC 22-39, each member of the team put up a strong fight and exhibited perseverance that had grown throughout the season.
Because Bowdoin is in the NESCAC league, HCWRFC had never played the team before. Due to the 80-minute length of the game, the women spent the first 10 minutes or so figuring out what the team was like and refining their playing strategies to match. Though Hamilton prepared for the game through rigorous practices and strength training, Hooker Becca Gaines ’15 explained that while the team prepares certain plays for line-outs, nothing is explicitly planned out in a rugby game. “It’s all about understanding the game and learning how to read the field,” she said.
The game was frustrating for many, since it seemed like “for every point we managed to post up on the scoreboard, Bowdoin seemed to answer it within a couple of minutes of play,” Back Captain Clare O’Grady ’14 explained. “However,” she added, “it was a great opportunity to go head-to-head with a team that we don’t face in our regular season.”
Prop Emily Pitman ’15 lauded the way the team played against Bowdoin: “Despite our loss, Hamilton was able to have impressive passes along our back line, strong scrums by the forwards, and efficient tackling by all players throughout the game.”
Afterwards, Gaines was named “Packie of the Game” and Hannah Nekoroski ’15 was named “Backie of the Game,” which were two honors voted on by the team. Families, members of the men’s rugby team, and even some HCWRFC alumnae came out to cheer on the team, as well.
The Saturday game was followed by a consolation game on Sunday against Stonehill College. While not an official match, the game was an opportunity for the rookies to gain valuable playing experience and time on the field.
Impressively, HCWRFC ended the fall season as the 2013 New York Excelsior League champions, meaning that it was one of the top 16 teams in the country in the ACRA Division II League. Gaines was pleased with how far the team made it this year. “Two and a half months is a long season,” she said. “We’ve been playing since the end of August and ended by starting to play in the snow. We got better every game.” Since the team made it to second place in the Excelsior Conference last fall, it was exciting for everyone to go even farther in post-season play this year.
Looking back on the past few months, HCWRFC members were satisfied with the way the team improved over the course of the fall. Pitman was pleased with the way “new players physically and mentally drove in and were able to quickly pick up the communication and ball handling skills necessary, [while] veteran players filled key leadership roles and were able to develop their own skills while introducing new players to the sport.”
Similarly, O’Grady noted that, “As the season progressed, I started to notice this invincible determination growing in each of my teammates. With each victory, we yearned for more.”
The team hopes to continue this trend in the upcoming spring season. Though many of the junior players will be abroad, O’Grady thinks “this will provide the sophomores and freshman with an opportunity to step it up and take on some sizable roles on the team.” As the team continues to build on its cohesiveness and to try new plays and strategies in the pack, it will surely yield positive results on the scoreboard again next year. As Pitman put it, “we hope to see continued strength by HCWRFC and make an appearance in the ACRA’s again next fall.” Judging by the way the team has played, there is no doubt that more successes are in its future in the coming seasons.