The women’s rugby team won its fourth consecutive New England Small College Rugby Conference (NESCRC) Championship on Saturday, cruising to a 88-0 win against Tufts. With the win, Bowdoin’s record improves to 7-0. This is the third straight season Bowdoin has defeated Tufts in the NESCRC championship. In 2012, Bowdoin beat Middlebury to claim the crown in the inaugural NESCRC championship.

In their annual meeting the next day, Head Coach MaryBeth Mathews and the other NESCRC coaches agreed to move Bowdoin out of the conference. Starting next fall, Bowdoin will play an independent schedule.

With the victory, the Polar Bears earned the rights to host the first round of the American Collegiate Rugby Association/USA Rugby Division II Championship tomorrow against the University of Maine.

Paige Pfannenstiel ’17 scored first, fielding a Tufts kick and returning the ball to give Bowdoin a 5-0 lead. Pfannenstiel added two more tries later in the game. Anna Piotti ’16 and Satya Kent ’19 each had a try, and Le’Shauna Phinazee ’16, Georgia Bolduc ’17 and Addison Carvajal ’16 all scored hat tricks to round out the scoring. Carvajal also added five conversion kicks for Bowdoin.

“This was the first time we played as a cohesive unit,” captain Emily King ’16 said. “We were able to connect with each other well out in the backline. The forwards had a really good read of the game and connected well with each other.”

One highlight was Carvajal’s drop goal, a play that’s considered very rare in rugby. 

“People were trying new things,” captain Cristina Lima ’17 said. “We had our first drop goal of women’s rugby at Bowdoin history. That was successful. People really started playing to our full potential.”

This was the second time Bowdoin has faced Tufts this season. In their season opener, the Polar Bears beat the Jumbos 80-5. While the first score was lopsided, Bowdoin did not expect the second matchup to be as straightforward.

“We knew that they were improving a lot,” King said. “We just went in with the expectation that it’d be a tougher game than we’d played before, and that we were going to take it as a challenge. We really worked on amping up our intensity and our physicality to bring a good game to them, and they brought a good game to us. They got better, but so did we.”

Mathews pointed to the players’ dedication in discussing the team’s continued success.
“It’s the students that choose to play rugby,” Mathews said. “They have exceedingly great character and commitment to the program and to each other, and it’s the history of captains and leaders on the team that annually commit to our culture of inclusiveness, support, teamwork, friendship, good sportsmanship and fun.”

Bowdoin’s move out of the NESCRC comes after two seasons in which the Polar Bears have not been challenged in conference play. This fall, the team has outscored its NESCRC opponents 332-10. Last season, the team was 7-0 against conference opponents, outscoring teams 486-5 during that period.

The idea of a move out of the conference was first floated last year. Bowdoin’s independent schedule next fall aims for a greater diversity of opponents. Mathews hopes that the team will continue to play against some NESCRC rivals like Colby and Tufts, but also compete against more competitive teams.

“I think [the players] are very eager for it. This season has been a challenge,” Mathews said. “Last season, they handled it very well because it was the first year we had much weaker opponents. To have to do it mentally, second year in a row, is a challenge. I think the team is very much up for it.”

With the conference championship win, the Polar Bears will host the first round of the Division II playoffs against the University of Maine tomorrow at 1 p.m. Bowdoin previously beat the Black Bears 36-0 earlier this season. As with Tufts, though, the team is wary of depending on its past results going forward.

“Our motto for the whole season has been focused around what we can control,” Lima said. “So we can’t control our competition. But we can control our attitude and effort. Attitude meaning staying in the game mentally, whether it’s a really tough team or a not so tough team. And effort—always bringing 110 percent no matter who it is.”