After defeating SUNY Fredonia 29-19 last weekend, the women's rugby team is competing in the Northeast Regional Championship tournament this weekend in the hope of heading to nationals next spring.

Bowdoin finds itself in this championship weekend following an away win against SUNY Fredonia last Saturday.

Bowdoin held the early edge in possession but was unable to find the try zone in the face of a staunch Fredonia defense. The Polar Bears' pressure finally cracked the Blue Devils when Randi London '15 notched a penalty kick right down the middle to take a 3-0 lead.

Kerry Townsend '13 found the try zone first for Bowdoin after she broke through the defense to the corner and then brought it back under the post. London completed the conversion for the 10-0 lead.

"We immediately started to apply some pressure and had a couple of early opportunities, but weren't able to score because they defended well," said Head Coach MaryBeth Mathews. "They were playing tough, they had some talent, and this was their home pitch, so they certainly weren't going to back down."

The Fredonia fullback tried to stretch the field position with the kicking game, but good communication allowed juniors Helen White, Lynn Freedman and Townsend to recover the ball and counterattack effectively. Dominant backline play allowed Bowdoin to swing the ball wide to London, who broke through the defense to score and convert to make the score 17-0 going into the half.

In the second half, the Blue Devils took advantage of a lively home crowd and ineffective Bowdoin tackling to cut the lead to 17-12. But Anissa Tanksley '14 reasserted the Bowdoin offense with a penalty try and London converted a gorgeous wide-angle kick to extend the lead to 24-12.

Although Fredonia responded quickly and scored another try to come within five points, Bowdoin maintained a strong defensive effort. Bowdoin managed to add to its tally once more when London scored off a broken play to make the final score 29-19.

"I think we played a pretty well-disciplined first half and then Fredonia came out strong on the second half and they got some momentum," said captain Katie Mathews '12. "We regrouped and were able to hold them off with some strong attacking lines and defense."

The team goes into this weekend as the winners of the all-NESCAC division of the New England Rugby Football Union, which for all intents and purposes is the NESCAC women's rugby league. This was the first year of the league and there was no official championship between NESCAC schools, but in the future this may change.

The NESCAC league, which has been constituted as part of the NCAA emerging sport bid for women's rugby that MaryBeth Mathews has been working on, will expand to include Bates, Trinity, Wesleyan and Connecticut College next year with the possibility of a conference championship.

The window for rugby to remain on the emerging sports list closes in December 2012 and the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics still needs to see five more teams achieve varsity status. The NESCAC league is part of this effort, but is also looking to the Ivy and PAC-12 leagues.

Bowdoin (10-1) will play Norwich University in the semifinals tomorrow at Vassar College, and will play a second game on Sunday regardless of that outcome. If the Polar Bears win both, they will be crowned league champions, and it will take just one win for them to advance to the spring nationals.

"They've been romping everyone this season, but they haven't been tested and they haven't had to play defense," said MaryBeth Mathews of Norwich. "They have advanced to the championship tournament every year for the last seven years, but they have not won. They are beatable, and in the past they have been one-dimensional."

The Polar Bears will look to add a victory and another chapter to a Norwich-Bowdoin rivalry that has developed over the past few years.

"They're consistently a strong rugby team year in and year out, but I'm happy with how our season has gone" said Katie Mathews. "Whereas if you're consistently blowing teams out, your mental resolve and ability to make comebacks aren't tested. I'm happy with where we are, and they definitely are a team that we know a lot about and we can shut them down."