The women’s rugby team is slated to play its first game of the season against rival the University of New England (UNE) this Friday at the UNE’s turf. With the Polar Bears coming off of an undefeated season, the game is anticipated to be a tightly contested rematch of last year’s national championship, in which Bowdoin came out on top. The Polar Bears have been on a five-game winning streak against the UNE since 2018.
“It’s a rivalry, but [there is] massive respect there. We’ve been playing each other for years now, and every time we play each other, both teams are significantly better,” Assistant Coach James Read said. “We’ve had the upper hand over the last couple of years, but it’s always close. It’s always a physical game, and I think both teams just want to play good rugby.”
At the national championship in November, 2021, the Polar Bears won 31-12. Ashlynn Autrey ’22, Molly Petronzio ’22 and Rebecca Vakarau ’25 all scored, with Vakarau earning three of the five tries.
The team is relatively young compared to last year. Nine seniors graduated last year, leaving the door open for seven first years to take their places.
“This is our first game together [with the first years], and we have a lot of newer players and a lot of first years,” flanker Ella Slaby ’25 said. “This is going to be a game where we come together or figure out how we can better come together.”
Preseason offered a chance for the players to become familiar with the new team dynamic. Three first years are slated to start the game, including hooker Nisi Tuitupou ’26, flanker Kyra Bishop ’26 and scrumhalf winger Justine Endo-Ferguson ’26. Winger Riley Simon ’26 is expected to finish the match.
The UNE also lost eight seniors coming into this season, which puts the two teams in very similar positions ahead of this game.
“It’ll be really cool to see how we look against our biggest opponent,” Ella Garnett ’23 said. “Our goal is to try to live up to the team we were last year and go beyond that.”