The women’s rugby team advanced to the D-II semifinals for the first time in seven years after wins over Rutgers University (29-23) and Marist College (22-14) last weekend in the regional finals held at Dartmouth College.

After an undefeated season with more than seven wins with over 50 point margins, the weekend’s opponents proved tougher matches.

 “The weekend was challenging,” said Head Coach Mary Beth Mathews. “Both Rutgers and Marist College were fierce competition, but our team had the poise, patience and discipline necessary to win.”

The second round match against Rutgers proved particularly difficult. Down 13-10 early in the first half, the team faced its first deficit of the entire season. Rutgers held the lead until five minutes remained when Bowdoin scored a try to take a 27-23 lead.

“[The Rutgers game] challenged us in a number of ways. We were in the lead, but then the opposition came back and played different defensive styles–ones we hadn’t encountered before,” said Mathews. “However, the Polar Bears managed to bring it back. Marist were also a big, strong, well-coached team who played their hearts out. It was a terrific game.”

 “Last weekend was very tense, but fun at the same time,” added Maddie Lemal-Brown ’18. “The atmosphere was electrifying as the other teams were also very fast and strong and put up a good fight.”

The team is especially excited fot the semifinal appearance after it lost in the American Collegiate Rugby Association/USA Rugby (ACRA/USAR) quarterfinals in last year’s tournament.

“We are always a strong team, and we always make the post-season,” added Mathews. “Yet this is the first time we’ve made it to the final four since 2007. It will be an exciting weekend for all.”
Bowdoin will be competing against Winona State University, last year’s national champions, in the semifinals held in Palm Crest, Florida during the weekend of December 5-7. 

The Polar Bears are the only small college team attending the ACRA/USAR DII 15s Championship. Alongside Bowdoin and Winona State University, Notre Dame College and Kutztown University will also be playing in Florida. 

“The biggest goal for this season was to go to Florida, so we are all very excited to play in the final four,” added Lemal-Brown. “Plus, we finally get to wear shorts again.”  

Impressively, while the team has had repeated success over recent years, the first time most of the players every played rugby was after arriving at Bowdoin. 

 “Most of our players come to Bowdoin having never played rugby before,” said Mathews. “We pride ourselves on having a team of mostly new players. They do so well because of the team culture and the leadership.”

Mathews has high hopes as the team moves to the national semifinals, and she is very pleased with her team’s undefeated play so far this season.

 “I am very proud of the captains and women on the team this season, not just for their on-field performance, but their commitment, energy and discipline. They are a terrific group of women.”