Conference Champs: Rugby and Field Hockey

Courtesy of Rob Daniels.

Rugby

There is only one word that can accurately describe the Vassar women’s rugby team: unrelenting. They have gone 8-1 this season following their victory in the Tri-State Championship this past weekend. But the Brewers haven’t just beaten other teams—they have crushed them, outscoring their opponents 457-67 this season. The massive tally includes regular-season wins against University at Albany (68-0), RPI (58-15), Fairfield University (39-14), Marist College (62-0), and Stony Brook University (28-0 by forfeit). Their lone loss came against Bowdoin in a close 17-26 defeat. 

The Vassar women’s rugby team continued their dominance in the Tri-State Conference tournament, winning the quarterfinals against Rutgers 63-5 and the semifinals against RPI 47-0, off of particularly strong performances from their seniors. This past Saturday, they took home the title with a 75-7 victory over Fairfield in the finals. Vassar notched a school-record seven tries (a try is when a player touches the ball to the ground on or behind the goal line) from Emily Howell ’22, two each from Kira Nolan ’22 and Julia Busby ’22 and one each from Lauren Thompson ’23 and Halle Hutchinson ’22. Additionally, Nolan had five cons (a con, or conversion, is when the player gets to try and kick the ball through the uprights to score more points after a try).

Courtesy of Vassar Athletic Communications

Being Tri-State Champions is no small feat, but the Brewers aren’t quite done. “We’re definitely excited, but we also know there is a lot of work still to do!” exclaimed Hannah Thompson ’23. “We want to celebrate our victories, and taking time to acknowledge what we have been doing well is important. That said, Nationals has always been the goal, so staying focused is integral to our success in the upcoming games.” Marie Claire Cicenia ’23 expressed a similar sentiment, stating, “Winning [the Tri-State tournament] is the norm now, nationals is the goal.”

When asked how the team was feeling after the win and in advance of nationals, Busby responded, “confident and proud to show some real shape and promise as a team, [but] we will work on our physicality [including] aggressive tackles and rucks are a priority.” Hannah concurred, stating, “We are continuing to work on areas of our game that still need improvement. We know the games will only get harder from here so we are trying to ramp up our intensity in practice and watch tape from previous games to determine what we could be doing better.”

But both Hannah and Busby acknowledged that to be successful, it takes more than just going all-out in practice. “We’re all undoubtedly a little beat up as is the case after any rugby game so we are taking time to recover and ensure our bodies are ready for the rest of the tournament,” Hannah revealed. Busby added that the supportive environment of the team has been a key to their success. “We celebrate each other and our improvements as a squad! We believe in encouragement and urgency. We want to show that we can do this because we believe in each other,” she exclaimed. 

After what has been a rocky year and a half for everybody, the Brewers are thankful for the opportunity to be competing for the National title. “It’s honestly just so incredible to be able to be playing rugby again! It was really heartening to see so many people come out to the game, and we appreciate all the support from the Vassar community!” Thompson said.

The Brewers will next play in the American Collegiate Rugby Association tournament quarterfinals at 9 a.m. on Nov. 20 at the Vassar farm. 

 

Field Hockey

The Vassar field hockey team’s strong season just got even stronger this past weekend when they took home the Liberty League championship. The Brewers have gone 13-6 this season, but despite their high win total, they were even better than their record showed. All six of their losses were by just a single point, including three that went to double overtime. 

The Brewers started off the Liberty League tournament strong with a 4-0 thrashing of St. Lawrence University in the semifinals to set up a showdown with Ithaca College in the final. During the regular season, Ithaca beat Vassar 1-0, but the Brewers got the last laugh with a thrilling 1-0 victory of their own in overtime to clinch the Liberty League championship. It was all defense for the first four quarters, with neither team letting up despite some good shots on goal. During overtime, Hailey Brigger ’24 slid the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal to win the game.

When asked how she felt about taking home the Liberty League title, Carina D’souza ’22 said, “It’s an indescribable feeling. I’m really fortunate to have won my freshman year, but this year felt a lot different. We had a lot of ups and downs as a team, but knowing we were able to overcome tough losses and beat the number one seed was a special feeling that I’ll cherish forever.” Kate Neikirk ’24 agreed, explaining, “It’s really exciting, especially since we are such a young team! Our upperclassmen knew what it takes to get to this point and how this moment feels, so being able to experience the journey together was so much fun.” Both Neikirk and D’souza also highlighted how rewarding it was to see their hard work pay off. “There were some aspects of our play that we struggled with throughout the season, and they didn’t really click until our first playoff game. To put in so much time and have it finally pay off has been so rewarding,” D’souza acknowledged. Similarly, Neikirk revealed that “It took a lot of really hard work and we had a few bumps in the road, but we really came together and fixed all of the little things which was the best part of it all!”

With the conference tournament victory, Vassar received an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III National Tournament. They will host Endicott College at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Heading into the National Tournament, the Brewers plan to stick to what got them there. “We aren’t changing too much, mostly just sticking to what we know and our basics. They’ve taken us this far and we all have so much confidence in each other, so we know that we have what it takes!” Neikirk declared. D’souza concurred, stating, “We know what has gotten us this far, so we’ve been sticking to our game plan. We’re trying to nail down the details that can be the difference between a win and a loss right now. Most of all, though, we’re focused on having fun and getting the hard work done, since any game could be our last.”

Additional reporting by Jackie Molloy. 

 

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