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Women’s rugby begins spring season with 4–0 sweep

April 12, 2024

Courtesy of Brian Beard
SPRINGING BACK: The women’s rugby team gathers on the pitch. The team is off to a successful start to its spring 7s season and is looking towards the Collegiate Rugby Championships later this spring.

The women’s rugby team opened its spring season in dominant fashion at the Crimson 7s Tournament hosted by Harvard University last weekend. Ella Slaby ’25 scored 24 points in the tournament, where Bowdoin swept its competition, notching wins against larger schools including West Point and Harvard to go 4–0.

For Head Coach Laura Miller, the tournament was an opportunity for the team to develop its skills and confidence in preparation for the Collegiate Rugby Championships later this spring.

“The goal is to show them skill sets that they don’t see in our competition, typically,” Miller said. “Ways that this team will compete for the ball, the level of physicality, the level of fitness that we just don’t see right now in Division III.”

The women’s rugby team is used to intense play during its fall season—the Polar Bears have won four straight NCAA Division III championships—but captain Lauryn Eisenhart ’24 appreciates the heightened competition of the spring season.

“It’s fun winning national championships—don’t get me wrong. But, I think there’s a real hunger within the people on my team to have a more challenging experience so that those wins are more rewarding,” Eisenhart said. “We focus a lot on physical fitness. We’ve prioritized lifting. We prioritize running a lot in the offseason—really, really high-paced practices.”

Conditioning is crucial to the spring season, since seven players must cover the same field 15 cover in the fall. Games are also shorter, putting a premium on speed.

“The endurance portion is huge and that just looks a little bit like more running before the season starts and a little bit more running during practices … just forming those habits,” Colleen Doucette ’24 said.

Eisenhart added that creativity and communication are vital to strong 7s play.

“There’s a lot more ability to think on the fly,” Eisenhart said.  “I think the way we’ve been training over the past couple weeks has given us the basic foundation to do that and then play against really intense teams.”

This training also bolstered confidence and allowed the team to rally after falling behind to West Point in their first game.

“We kind of got smacked in the face right away, and they scored on us twice,” Doucette said.

The first half of that game ended with a try by Kyra Bishop ’26, which shifted the momentum and helped the team rally after halftime to earn a 17–15 win.

“That game woke us up to like, ‘okay, hey, 7s is really fast and really physical, and we can’t just be like dilly-dallying around.’ And I feel like we just played with intensity,” Doucette said.

The team kept this intensity going throughout the weekend, winning games against Quinnipiac University, Harvard and Northeastern University.

Evie Hamer ’26 said that, during long breaks between games, the team’s camaraderie helped it maintain momentum.

“You’re not doing it for you. You’re doing it for everybody else on the team,” Hamer said. “It’s just a really supportive environment on and off the field.… Everyone’s going to support each other, and when the game’s over, we’re going to take time to joke around and relax.”

Hamer believes that spring tournaments are a great opportunity to develop the team’s skills, especially for the many walk-ons who haven’t played 7s before.

“Committing this good amount of time to really building up their skills in 7s that can only translate to 15s, like the national championship—I think it’s a great opportunity to do that,” Hamer said.

The team is also looking forward to the Collegiate Rugby Championship, where it will face some of the best DI teams in the nation. Bowdoin is the only Division III school invited, something Eisenhart appreciates.

“We have a big challenge ahead of us, but this is a real testament to our ability,” Eisenhart said. “The goal that I have in mind is just to be able to beat some of these teams that we shouldn’t necessarily be able to beat to both prove to ourselves, but also to the larger rugby network and to Bowdoin that we belong at this really, really high level.”

The women’s rugby team will travel to Biddeford next week to compete in the University of New England’s 7s Tournament before hosting the Polar Bear 7s on April 21.


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