After winning the Division III national championship in the 2019-2020 season, the women’s rugby team aims to continue its success through the last stretch of the regular season by continuing to split up their major goals into smaller, more immediately achievable parts. One of those small goals: defeating Vassar for the first time in club history, a feat which they completed this past weekend.
In her twenty-eighth year as head coach, MaryBeth Matthews is proud of her team for reasons beyond winning games.
“This is the first time we have had all four classes [on campus],” Matthews said. “It has been a great success to get everybody on the same page. Hopefully, we can see that translating on the field … Overall, we are very happy with the way the team has merged.”
Sadie McClean ’24, who is playing her first full season this fall, emphasized the excitement around returning to the pitch, but mentioned that there was some trepidation as well.
“I was definitely nervous going into playing with all these big kids that have been playing for the last three or four years at such a high level, but they helped me with that transition,” McClean said. “The whole team was super supportive, so it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. So I was nervous, but I am really excited to continue the legacy and tradition.”
Cultivating team camraderie has been a constant goal for the team, and Matthews has made it her priority that her players set aside their larger, more abstract goals and take this season step by step.
“They need to be measurable, smart goals,” Matthews said. “They wanted to beat Vassar; they just achieved that. They wanted a shutout; they’ve achieved that. But underneath that, they come up with commitments.”
McClean explained that the team is expected to consider the individual components required to achieve its larger goals.
“Matthews introduced the idea of breaking down goals into tangible pieces,” McClean said. “We may be able to say that we want to win the title but she makes us ask how we are going to get there. Mondays, after our games we reset the week and … think about what we are going to commit to in order to make that goal happen.”
Although winning every game is an important goal, the team has not limited itself to success strictly on the pitch.
“We also have team cohesion goals,” Assistant Coach James Read said. “Making sure we support each other, extracurricular activities, taking time out to get to know each other [and] … just making sure we can be allies and support each other on and off the field.”
However, given the success the team has enjoyed in recent years and the national championship it is expected to defend, they face immense pressure to remain at the top of Division III.
Despite the target placed on its back, Matthews and Read want the team to remain focused on playing one game at a time.
“We just go out and play. We play our game on that [given] day,” Matthews said. “Every year at the beginning of the season we write our team goals. If the team goal is to win the national championship, then we write it down, shove it in a drawer and get to work.”
Read echoed Matthews’ thoughts.
“We obviously want to go and play the best game we can, and hopefully it will result in winning, but that’s not the only reason why we’re here,” he said.
The team will continue its championship defense season on October 23, taking on the University of New England at home.