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Women’s rugby secures fourth consecutive NIRA championship win

December 1, 2023

Courtesy of Mark Washburn
NATIONAL CHAMPS: The women’s rugby team celebrates after winning its fourth NIRA championship title in the last four years. The team defeated Adrian College 51–17 and finished its season with an 8–0 record.

The women’s rugby team proved that they are, yet again, the champions.

For the fourth year in a row, the team has won the National Intercollegiate Rugby League (NIRA) Division III championship in Boston, Mass. On November 18, the team secured a 51–17 win against Adrian College and finished its season with an 8–0 record.

Katie Stomma ’26 kicked off the championship game with an early try to put the Polar Bears up 7–0 in the first ten minutes. Adrian quickly caught up by adding five points to the scoreboard, but Colleen Doucette ’24, Saniya Ridley ’25, Rebecca Vakarau ’25, Lulu Linkas ’26 and Stomma scored 37 consecutive points to secure the team’s fourth consecutive NIRA title.

Although the team is used to winning, there was a new factor in the mix this year: Head Coach Laura Miller. In her inaugural year with the team, Miller stressed the importance of continuing the team’s standard of success.

“I came in here, and we have good rugby players,” Miller said. “But to be able to manage them in a way that makes them feel like they’re playing at their best is the goal.”

With such a stellar record, the team knew its worth, but Miller knew it was important to come into the NIRA championship with a refreshed mindset. She wanted the players to feel that they were doing something new and exciting while still feeling able to prove themselves.

Linkas emphasized the importance of a confident mindset going into the championship game and how her teammates lifted each other up. While each player has their own pregame rituals, she also described a positive affirmation activity the team did the night before.

“We did an exercise where you write down nice things about the other people on the team,” Linkas said. “So everyone got a sheet saying everything they’ve done well throughout the season.”

Miller is proud that every player has become confident in their roles on the field, making each individual a leader in their own respect.

“We saw people who aren’t in captain roles helping and counseling the captains on their respective area of expertise,” Miller said.

Despite Bowdoin’s high confidence and preparation, Adrian College still put up a fight against the reigning champs.

“People don’t really talk about coming up against an underdog, but the tenacity that a team has when they can come over somebody who’s been upholding a title for so long—that brings a certain energy that is a little bit terrifying,” Linkas said.

Since the team had not played Adrian College since the beginning of its season, no one knew what to expect from the fierce up-and-coming rugby program.

Adrian’s tenacity was welcomed by the team, which is constantly looking for places where it can improve within DIII. The Polar Bears hope to advance their competition over the next few years so that the standard for DIII rugby reaches new heights.

The program is not stopping here. As they head into a developmental spring season, Miller hopes to provide an opportunity for newer team members to improve and for older, vetted players to continue their upward trajectory.

Instead of plateauing at a winning standard, the team is searching for more fulfilling endeavors next season.

“I want us to get to the point where we’re sort of punching up—trying to compete for something at a higher level,” Miller said.


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