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The Radcliffe Rugby Football Club has to take care of a little unfinished business this weekend.
Radcliffe is traveling to Penn State to take part in Nationals, a four-team, two-day affair that will crown rugby's national champion. The Black & White will face the defending champs, Princeton, in the semifinals tomorrow at noon. The contest will be a rematch of last year's semifinal game which the Tigers won in a closely-contested battle.
This year Radcliffe hopes to reverse that result. It is a game to which the Black & White has been looking forward since it clinched its berth to Nationals last fall.
Radcliffe had an outstanding fall season, outscoring its opponents by a whopping 279-15 margin. The team tallied a perfect record during the NERFU regular season to set up a match against UVM in the league semifinals.
In that game the Black & White thrashed the Catamounts, 44-0. That victory meant a meeting with arch-rival Yale in the finals the next day.
In a fiercely fought contest, the Elis were able to score the only points of the game on a try to take the title 5-0. However, Radcliffe would have its revenge just one week later.
With its most dominating performance of the season, the Black & White obliterated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights by a score of 75-0 in the NRU semifinals, setting up a muchanticipated rematch with Yale in the finals once again.
The game was just as close as the last meeting, but this time Radcliffe co-captain Rebecca Wallison split the uprights after a penalty to give Radcliffe the 3-0 win and clinch a spot at Nationals.
The Black & White then romped through its spring season, winning every tournament in which it competed.
The weekend of April 12 and 13, Radcliffe brought home the title in the Ruggers Spring Classic at Stony Brook.
The following weekend the team garnered another tourney championship in the Beast of the East Tournament. And just last week the squad routed Dartmouth to capture the Ivy League Title.
Everything seems to be right on schedule for Radcliffe as it heads into Nationals. The players think much of the credit for this wave of success should go to their coaches, Lisa Gartner, Darlene Connors and Mary Dixey.
"I can't emphasize how much [our coaches] have influenced my desire to play rugby," senior Carolyn Magill said. "My teammates and I respect what they have to say. Even though they can be demanding of us on the field, they are our friends off the field."
The only setback which Radcliffe has faced has been injuries. Luckily, not many of these have been devastating, and most of the players have recovered in a timely fashion.
"Seeing my teammates who have had broken ankles, collar bones and arms back out on the pitch as soon as they are healed is inspiring," said Magill.
Not all of these injuries are so easy to overcome. Junior Emily Yee tore her anterior cruciate ligament only a few weeks ago and will not be able to participate in Nationals. But Radcliffe knows that every player contributed to the team's success.
"[We] believe a victory is everyone's accomplishment, regardless of who was on the field," Magill said.
Indeed a number of players have made significant contributions on the field for Radcliffe throughout the year. Junior Nancy Mcguire captains the squad along with Wallison, while Magill, Sarah Cable, Zelime Ward, Onay Payne and Lori Rifkin are all impact players.
With strong leadership, Radcliffe heads to its second consecutive Nationals appearance after another successful year. The Black & White hopes to achieve its ultimate goal of winning a national title.
The team begins its championship run with tomorrow's rematch against Princeton. The last time Radcliffe had a similar chance for revenge it defeated Yale in that NRU final.
Maybe vengeance isn't a bad thing; it seems to motivate the Black & White, and it just may help Radcliffe bring home the championship.
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