Women’s Rugby repeats conference championship, advances to Nationals

By Henry Harris and Drew Ladner

History has repeated itself. For the second year in a row, Colby women’s rugby has won the Conference Championship with a victory over the University of Maine Orono (UMO)-this year, by a score of 22-17-and qualified for the USA Rugby Division II Fall National Championships.

The team wrapped up their regular season a week prior with a 33-29 loss against UMO, finishing with an overall record of 5-2. Despite the loss, the Mules still had a good enough record to clinch the number one seed in the New England Small College Rugby Conference and hosted the championship on the new rugby field this past Saturday. The fact that the game was a rematch against UMO, put the women in an identical position to last year, when they beat UMO in the championship game despite losing to them in the regular season.

Despite the close final score, Colby spent much of the game in control, sending UMO backpedaling toward their own try line. Much like last week’s match, the game was played mostly on UMO’s half of the field. However, one of the reasons for Colby’s initial loss to the Black Bears the was how many times Colby players took the ball and cut toward UMO defenders when one final pass to a teammate on the outside would have led to an open field run towards the try line. Though their mistakes would not prove as costly in the championship game, the team still left many scores on the field, with players missing pass opportunities, forced out of bounds, and held up at the try line. They only had one first half try, from Clare Stephens ’18, and trailed 12-5 at the half.

Whatever struggles the team faced were made up for tenfold by their strong skillset. There is a reason Women’s Rugby earned their number one seed. One of Colby’s greatest strengths in this game proved to be their ability to regain possession from UMO. After every tackle, the women were quick to hit the defensive rucks, drive out the opposition, and scoop up the ball for a quick turnover. The second half, especially, saw Colby force many turnovers, while UMO frantically tried to pass and kick the ball away from their own tryline.

When Colby had possession of the ball, they spread the ball out with passes, pushed forward, and frequently broke tackles. The UMO defense struggled to stop the Mules’ powerful runs. Jess Edlund ’18 continued to be an offensive force, often taking on multiple defenders. Her efforts were part of the many Colby runs that marched the team down the field and drew in defenders to open up second half tries by Laura Wu ’18 and Anna Braverman ’19.

But penalties can prove costly for any team. A slew of penalties from Colby gave UMO the breathing room needed to break a few runs of their own and score a try to tie the game 17-17. A high tackle from Maggie Burgos ’18 resulted in a yellow card ,but even with a player down, the Mules continued to display their athletic dominance, keeping the ball on the UMO side of the field. As they had done all game, the team applied consistent pressure on defense and forced the turnovers needed to make an offensive push. With UMO on their heels, Emma Hoffman ’20 found weaknesses in the UMO defense and capitalized to score the game-winning drive.

The win was a true team effort. The women had played so well as a unit that they decided not to elect a forward and back of the game, as is their usual tradition. After the game 10, Co-captain Wu said “All I want to say is that I am so proud of the team. Hard work paid off, and we were able to reflect and fix our mistakes from the previous game and rise to the occasion. Not one player stood out because everybody played so spectacularly.”

This win catapults the women’s rugby team to the National Championship Tournament. For the second year in a row, Colby is the number one seed. Next Saturday, they will host the University of New Hampshire for round one of the tournament at 1 p.m.

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