In its second game of the season, the women’s rugby team dominated Colby-Sawyer by a score of 79-0 on September 17. The Polar Bears are the 2019 defending national champions, but with only two games under their belt and a team that hasn’t competed in-season in over a year, the Polar Bears are focusing on the small achievements.
Head Coach MaryBeth Mathews explained that the team has been able to prepare over the past few weeks by focusing on specific skills, rather than broad objectives.
“Every single week we don’t focus so much on the game or on winning the game. We focus on our ability to play well together and make good decisions because rugby is such a team sport,” Mathews said.
Despite the team’s diligent preparation and previous victory against Norwich University on September 11, captain Ashlynn Autrey ’22 explained that players were still unsure about how they would perform against Colby-Sawyer.
“There were definitely still nerves [before the game] because we have a lot of people on the team who are just starting to [play games],” Autrey said. “[Some of them] have never played together before, and many of them haven’t even ever played a college game before.”
After having been physically apart for almost two years due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is now more energized than ever.
“We recognize the value in friendship and teamwork and comradery [more than before],” Mathews said. “There is this underlying sense of gratitude that we are all so glad to be back together.”
Similar to Mathews, players are excited to finally experience the adrenaline of being in a competitive atmosphere again.
“We were just so excited to get to have that game feeling because it’s not one you can replicate truly in practice,” Autrey said.
As a result of COVID-19, none of the underclass athletes have experienced a typical season, requiring even more leadership from upperclass players.
“So many people haven’t [competed in-season or been a leader] before, so [the upperclass players] have to think through everything,” Autrey said.
Goal setting is a main facet of the team’s training. Each week, players set measurable goals and smaller checkpoints to which they can hold each other accountable.
“It’s better to achieve one small thing at a time than [to try to] achieve five different things at once,” Autrey said.
The team’s dedicated philosophy remains evident in setting their goals for the rest of the season.
“We want to defend our championship … but we set the goal, and then we put it in the drawer. We don’t look at it, and we get to work,” Mathews said. “[We] take it one day at a time or one week at a time.”
This Saturday, the Polar Bears resume action when they take on the University of New England (UNE) in women’s rugby’s first home game since the 2019-2020 academic year.