The trip to greener pastures often involves a long and eventful journey. For the seniors who built the Harvard women’s rugby program from the ground up, the end of that journey was a trip north with the hope to capture a tournament at Dartmouth College for the second straight weekend.
The team tallied four more wins on Sunday but faltered in pool play against Army and missed the championship game on point differential. However, the team did regroup to knock off the tournament hosts and climb the podium in the final tournament of the season.
HARVARD 26, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE 5
Although a championship game appearance would have been nice, the tournament’s third-place contest did allow the Crimson to appreciate two graduating seniors, Claire Collins and Mariah Turner, whose class was the first entirely under a varsity program.
After a quick early hiccup that allowed AIC to open the scoring, Harvard got into tune for a blowout win. The stat line belonged to underclassmen, who spread around the scoring for five tries. But that productivity gave the graduating seniors more time to celebrate.
Making a comeback to the playing field after taking a semester off to study abroad, Turner played the entire game to close out her career. While her apparent impact on the field might be limited, she worked dynamically with Collins and junior captain Maya Learned as a team leader.
“She was always checking game minutes. She was always getting equipment ready and filming what we needed to film,” sophomore Caitlin Weigel said. “So she was really a silent worker behind the scenes. But also during practice, she would step in, and we would scrimmage against her.”
Even after so much time off, Weigel noted a specific “chemistry” while she was on the field, one that will take time to replace.
HARVARD 10, DARTMOUTH 7
As one of the marquee rivalries in collegiate rugby, the two Ancient Eight schools perennially butt heads in tight games. After dropping a close matchup in the Ivy League championship game last weekend, Dartmouth looked for revenge on its home turf. The heavyweight battle failed to disappoint as both teams were in the game until the end.
The Big Green came out hot and scored the first try, but a Harvard recovery was never out of the question, especially because Dartmouth had also struck first the previous Sunday in the Ivy Championship game.
But soon after, the momentum changed as the Crimson’s top players took over the match and controlled the play on the field. Weigel soon drove through the defense after a scrum to put Harvard on the board.
After some tough calls earlier in the tournament, Harvard was the beneficiary of a final possession before half as the result of a penalty on Dartmouth. True to character, Collins snatched the opportunity by punching in a try to put the Crimson ahead by three points.
“We call her Mama Claire,” Weigel said. “She is the hardest worker, the most positive person, and the most mature person. So she will be so missed next year. After the final game, we all just hugged her and were crying because we know that she is such a valuable member to this team.”