Conscious of the talent it will face in next weekend's Nationals, the Radcliffe rugby team hopes to practice its defense today against Dartmouth.
"We'll have to be strong on defense for Nationals," senior Niffer Esty said. "Hopefully, Dartmouth will give us a good game."
Traditionally a strong team, Dartmouth is weaker than usual this year. However, Dartmouth has improved since the fall season.
"They're a young team, but they've had another season to prepare," backs captain Bex Wallison said. "They're stronger now."
Radcliffe has not had much competition this semester, senior Carolyn Magill said.
"Unfortunately, we'll face very tough competition when we go to Nationals," Magill said.
"We've been trouncing our opponents, even Yale," Wallison said.
Earlier in the season, Radcliffe defeated Yale, 3-0, to qualify for Nationals. Last Sunday, Radcliffe swelled the margin to 27-0 against the Elis in the finals of the Beast of the East tournament.
The offense is one of the team's strengths and has taken some of the pressure off the defense.
"Our tackling could be better, but we've been keeping possession, and that's been a huge factor," Wallison said. "Our forwards have been winning rucks and scrums and this lets the backs take the ball. After winning all these things, we don't really need to play much defense.
"A lot of people have stepped up, and they've been making really great strides."
Junior fullback Sara Cable and sophomore wing Erika Lundquist are both new to their respective positions, but they have filled in nicely.
The team has overcome several injuries, including that of junior Emily Yee, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament. Junior Kelly Gilbride has just returned after suffering the same injury as Yee.
Radcliffe did receive a defensive test when it scrimmaged the Beantown B-side. While Radcliffe lost to Beantown, the national champions, the scrimmage was a positive experience.
"It was the first time we had to play a defensive game," Magill said.
"Hard defense and tackling well is the first step to throwing any team back," Esty said.
To advance to the national final, Radcliffe must repel Princeton, the two-time defending champion, in the first round.
Last year Radcliffe nearly accomplished that feat.
"We took ourselves by surprise," Wallison said. "We could've won Nationals. But they intercepted a pass and that was the game."
Radcliffe's outlook on the tournament was different last year.
"We thought it was nice going to Nationals. No one expected we'd be as good as other teams," Wallison recalled.
This year, though, the team wants to win.
"We're looking forward to Nationals," Wallison said. "When we play a strong fifteen [players], we're pretty unstoppable."