Women's Rugby Falls to Quinnipac in AIC Invitational Semifinals

For the second straight week, Harvard women’s rugby’s tournament lives came down to a game against Quinnipiac University. For the second straight week, the Bobcats roared past the Crimson en route to a 7s tourney title.

Making the relatively short trip to western Mass. to participate in the AIC Invitational at American International College, Harvard won its pool and quarterfinal matchup relatively handily before getting knocked out in the championship semifinal, 39-0, against the two-time reigning national champions. But just like last weekend, the team can take positives from the tournament, which included stiffer competition than it saw last Saturday when the team hosted the Crimson 7s tournament.


In a reiteration of its position at the pinnacle of women’s rugby, Quinnipiac hardly let Harvard breathe before ending the Crimson’s chances at an upset. Besting its strong start from last weekend, the Bobcats struck first less than two minutes into the game, courtesy of Ilona Maher who scored the match’s first 17 points and was subsequently named the AIC Invitational MVP. A fourth try as time expired in the first half to put the game all but away.

As the 7s season gets underway, Harvard has been stressing a constant process of improvement, particularly on defense. But as this game clearly proved, the Crimson is the not the only team to be putting the pedal to the metal. Quinnipiac’s stifling play resulted in the first shutout of the season for Harvard, while presenting a fast-paced attack that other teams have no answer for.


“It would have been really easy to give, and say that we were tired and stop,” sophomore Caitlin Weigel said. “But we kept going. If there was a kickoff we were going to receive it and try our darndest to get through to the other side. But Quinnipiac definitely is sort of the standard at what collegiate 7s rugby is right now and we are going to keep working out and keep chipping away until we reach that standard as well.”

Last weekend when the Crimson played host to Quinnipiac, there was a semblance of competition as Harvard opened up the second half with a try. But this time the team would be blanked as its foe scored three more tries to seal the game. The rematch would also not provide the Crimson with any consolation, with no third place game or final try to end the contest. Returning the favor from last week, the Bobcats struck one last time as Harvard’s time in the tournament ended.


After sweeping its three-team pool, Harvard ranked fourth and faced a bracket rematch against fifth-seed West Chester. Coincidentally, the Crimson played the same teams in the last two games of consecutive tournaments. As before, the results came out identically.

Despite the similarity, this game might have been Harvard’s brightest spot on the afternoon. After a defensive slugfest last weekend at Roberto A. Mignone Field, the Crimson blew the Golden Rams away on Sunday. Sophomore Rachel Harkavy scored two tries in the opening five minutes to take away intrigue from the bout. Two more tries, including one with :10 left in the half, catapulted Harvard into the semifinals.

Matching tries from the teams meant little, as West Chester faced an already insurmountable lead. The contest was a great display of the Crimson’s offensive prowess, as the team showed off good ball movement and tight cuts.

“West Chester was a really good game to see how much we had improved because the score was drastically different than last week. What really came together was our connection on set pieces and in open play we were anticipate where the next [open] space would be.”

The game also reaffirmed the team’s need to work on its defensive form. After all, in order to score, one needs possession of the ball. But if Harvard can become more tenacious without the ball, it has the potential to become a national contender, as last week’s game against Quinnipiac showed.

“This past week we’ve been really focused on positive tackles, getting hips square into the tackle so that we can drive them backwards,” Weigel said. “So that was something that we did accomplish this weekend. In almost all of our games we had positive tackles. The next step to building on the progress we’ve made is to get the ball back. When we’re pushing them backwards that’s our chance to be ball hungry and to go snatch the ball. So that’s going to be a point of improvement going forward on defense.”



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