In the midst of Homecoming Weekend 2022, the women’s rugby team departed Pickard Field triumphant after a 62-5 win against the University of Maine-Orono (UMO). After earning wins against the University of New England, Colby College and Castleton University, the team is 4-0 this season and has won its last 15 games. The Polar Bears are excited to vie for their third consecutive championship.
The team’s success, however, was not guaranteed at the start of the season. After fifteen seniors graduated last year, the team was concerned about not having enough players on the roster.
“I remember, one of the first days of the season, our coach put up who was still left from the starting fifteen from last year,” captain Jorja Markella ’24 said. “It was only a couple of people,and obviously, as captain, that’s a big challenge to take on—essentially rebuilding a team.”
Fortunately, a fresh influx of first-years and walk-ons meant there were enough players to split into two full teams during practice. Being able to play scrimmages against each other has been constructive for both squads.
“As you get to know your teammates’ tendencies, you become a better decision-maker and play maker,” Head Coach MaryBeth Mathews said.
Mathews leads mental helath exercises for the team during practice, which Justine Endo-Ferguson ’26 has found help her distance herself from academic work during the game and prioritize what she’s doing on the field.
All this work paid off as noon struck on October 1. In the first fifteen minutes of the match, UMO brought strong energy to the game and offered Bowdoin a real challenge. However, Bowdoin quickly took back control of the game, and outscored UMO 29-5 in the opening half.
“We cleaned it up, and the score really reflected how much we went through that game,” Keysha Cain-Garr ’25 said. “I think we were able to calm ourselves down and to look at the game holistically instead of getting wrapped up in it.”
Endo-Ferguson scored the first try of the game, securing a 5-0 lead.
“[As a first year], it feels very affirming to have success as an individual on the team,” Endo-Ferguson said.
The B team, the secondary roster consisting of players who do not typically start regular matches, also thrived on the field. Mathews said that around 50 alumni watched the B team’s game, and many reported that it was the best B team game they had ever seen. Mathews is excited about the development of the newer players.
Players attribute much of their recent record to the team’s close environment and drive to win.
“I feel like there’s a lot of people who are extremely competitive this year,” Markella said. “So, in practice, we will go really hard, even if it’s just us.”
Looking forward, the team remains optimistic about the remaining matches this season and will continue to work hard in practice.
“I think their attitude is terrific. I do think they’re very confident and they are playing very well,” Mathews said. “I believe they want more challenges and we have put that in the schedule, so they will get more challenges. I mean, sometimes, you want that tough, tough game.”
Endo-Ferguson is one of the players who is eager to face stronger competition.
“It’s not that any of the teams haven’t given us a fight; we’ve really battled for these wins,” Endo-Ferguson said. “But I think that in order to achieve something big, it’s always good to have a loss that you need to rebuild from. It just gives you a different kind of motivation.”
The team will be traveling to New Haven this Sunday to play against the University of New Haven (0–2) and the University of Connecticut.