The women's rugby team will look to ground the Skyhawks of Stonehill College this weekend in the first round of the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) playoffs.

The Skyhawks (5-0) have the higher seed and home field advantage. The winner of the game will advance to the NERFU final four at the University of New Hampshire next week.

"It should be a good game," said head coach MaryBeth Mathews. "They are always tough and well coached."

Bowdoin last met Stonehill in 2008 at the NERFU finals. That year, Stonehill won 8-0 and continued on to the national finals.

"Stonehill will be a very tough game," said captain Becky Stevens '11. "But if we focus our efforts on defense and work hard to move the ball quickly, then I think we can be very successful."

Bowdoin will enter the playoffs after a heartbreaking loss to Radcliffe at home last Saturday.

The Polar Bears capitalized on an early Radcliffe penalty from their own goal line which allowed flanker Uchechi Esonu '13 to advance the ball.

Then, after a successful ruck by the forwards, Stevens was able to recover the ball and evade defenders to score the opening try. She added a successful conversion kick to the score, making the Bowdoin lead 7-0.

"It was a hard fought match," said assistant coach Bob Mathews. "There was a lot of physical play."

Bowdoin controlled the pace of the play for most of the contest but following the first try the play was very even. The back-and-forth ended with a few unforced errors by Bowdoin which Radcliffe took advantage of to score its first try. Bowdoin responded aggressively and following several violent tackles, a few players broke out down the right sideline, allowing Zara Bowden '13 to touch it down in the try zone.

Bowdoin carried a 12-5 lead into the half.

The second half began poorly for the Polar Bears when Radcliffe took the kickoff through the forwards and out along their backs for a long scoring opportunity that brought the score to 12-10.

"We played very well for parts and very hard for the whole game," said MaryBeth Mathews. "We just didn't play smart for some parts of the game."

Things did not get any better for the Polar Bears when they lost two strong defenders, Rebecca Silva '11 and Carolyn Levin '11.

That loss changed the pace of the game. Radcliffe again found a gap in the defense for another try and took its first lead, 15-12.

Bowdoin brought the fight back to Radcliffe with downfield pressure caused by long kicks and hard runs from the backs.

Stevens picked up the ball after a string of Bowdoin rucks and again found the try zone. The long and high conversion kick bounced off the post but Bowdoin still was able to take a 17-15 lead.

The Polar Bears found themselves playing defense back and forth across the field in the final minutes of play. Radcliffe took advantage of possession and was able to pierce the Polar Bear defense for the winning try, making the score 20-17.

"At times we didn't play our game," said MaryBeth Mathews. "We played well in spots, just not consistently enough to finish them off. They did enough to win and took advantage of our mistakes."

"I am extremely proud of our team's effort on Saturday," said Stevens. "Unfortunately, Radcliffe capitalized on our mistakes, but we were perseverant throughout the entire game."

"They have to take away the positives from the game because they are capable playing a good full game of rugby," said MaryBeth Mathews. "They just need to prove it to themselves."