The women’s rugby team (4-1) will host its seventh annual Polar Bear 7s tournament tomorrow. Earlier this month, the team competed in the NEC 7s tournament where they defeated UNH (34-10), University of Maine (19-15) and Wesleyan (32-15). The Polar Bears then advanced to the finals where they defeated Endicott (17-12) and fell to Boston University (20-10).
In the spring, rugby teams compete in teams of seven rather than 15. The NEC tournament was the team’s first time competing in rugby sevens this season.
“We put out what we thought was our best team, and did very very well,” said Head Coach MaryBeth Mathews. “I told the team the mistakes we made in [the loss to BU] were exactly the mistakes that you would be making early in the season and learning from them was perfect. [I’m] very proud of them, it was a great first day.”
Since the field positions and strategies are different for Sevens compared to Fifteens, training is also different, with the team focusing on endurance running rather than sprint drills.
“[Sevens and Fifteens] each present their own challenges,” said captain Elizabeth D’Angelo ’19. “In a Fifteens game, it’s more balanced; we have forwards and backs. So there are a lot more tackles going on and a lot more smaller play happens, as opposed to Sevens where, because the field is so big, the goal is to spread out as much as possible.”
During the spring, the Polar Bears compete as a club team, so they are generally more focused on developing skills in preparation for the varsity season in the fall. This is especially true this year since the team is comprised of 15 first-year players, many of whom have not played rugby sevens before.
“We are trying to be very competitive as well [this season], but we are focused also on grooming new people to take the spots of the seniors who are leaving,” said D’Angelo. “We came in very hungry to continue to win and … have a good time, but [we also know] we need to train people.”
“There is a lot of teaching and learning; [the first years] are doing incredibly well,” added Mathews. “They are very smart and quick learners. We focus on staying connected on defense, putting pressure on the ball and taking advantage of opportunities with our skill, footwork, speed and teamwork.”
The Polar Bear 7s tournament provides the team with the chance to face strong competition. With an additional B-team division, every school is able to enter two teams into the tournament.
The tournament includes teams from both the NIRA and the NESCAC, including UNE, Colby Sawyer, Colby, Middlebury, Brown and Norwich.
“You will see some great rugby,” said Mathews. “My expectations [for the Polar Bears] are that they play hard and play together.”
The tournament also gives Bowdoin a chance to watch teams that play in a higher division.
“It’s a mix of getting to play and getting to watch some very high quality rugby,” D’Angelo said.
Bowdoin will host teams from across New England at Pickard Field in a series of rugby sevens games beginning at 10:20 a.m. tomorrow.