Inexperienced Lady Dawgs learn from home event, prepare for league

Williams’ Lady White Dawgs rugby team made its return to Division I this past weekend, hosting the Beantown Tournament. The club played three games: two on Saturday against UMass and Smith and the third against Cornell early Sunday morning. While the weekend was not the most successful in terms of the score, the Lady White Dawgs improved with every game and began to play as a unit.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Lady White Dawgs squared off against UMass, the second-ranked team in the Northeast Region. As a relatively inexperienced team with a brand new line, the players faced an uphill battle.

From the opening kickoff, the UMass line proved that it was a force to be reckoned with, but as the game progressed, the Williams scrum proved to be the same. Almost always the first into the rucks, the Lady White Dawgs dominated in the fight for possession of the ball. Boosted by the lightning quick tackles of flankers Roshni David ’01 and Lizzie Jacobs ’01 and the smart aggressive play by Rebecca Rehm ’00 and Erin Dempsey ’01, the Williams scrum all but shut down the opposition.

The line, however, had to overcome more inexperience, as two former scrummies, Devon DiClerico’01 and Moira Shanahan ’01, made their debut. UMass continuously bombarded the line, taking advantage of the developing players, to win 46-0.

Despite the loss, DiClerico and Shanahan were able to charge down the field, assisted by great runs by fullback Julia Cianfarini ’01 and wing Kamille Richards ’00 proving the team was coming together. The Lady White Dawgs also drew a compliment from the referee who said, “Your loose play was excellent. You beat them on their own rucks.”

The second game against Smith began with excellent rucking off the kickoff by Katherine Belecki ’01. Smith intercepted a pass off the ruck, but their poor ball handling resulted in a knock-on, and the Lady White Dawgs were rewarded with a penalty.

Off the penalty play, Yana Dadiomova ’00 charged up the pitch, passing to Shanahan, who crashed through the Smith line to set up a ruck. Again, Shanahan received the ball, making a great run before Smith pushed her out of bounds. Off the lineouts, Dempsey and Susie Fyrberg ’00 spoiled Smith’s attempts for possession.

Beth Friedman ’01 also spoiled much of the connection between the Smith scrum and line by keeping constant pressure on the Smith scrumhalf. Despite the constant play on the brink of the try zone, the Lady White Dawgs were unable to convert, and the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

Sunday morning, the Lady White Dawgs faced off against Cornell. Hampered by the soggy pitch, the White Dawgs were unable to take advantage of the speed of the line and were forced to rely on the scrum.

Once again, David foiled Cornell’s runs off of the rucks, flattening every opponent in her way. On one of the many near scoring opportunities, Cianfarini tore through the the defense on a long run; the Cornell defense caught up to her only to have Jacobs intercept a flailing pass, once again charging near the try zone.

Also ripping through the defense was Clare Newman ’02 off a quick break by Virginia Despard ’02. In the closing minutes of the match, Cornell was finally able to put pressure on the Williams defense, only to be thwarted by Belecki, who got her hands under the ball forcing a five-meter scrumdown. However, Cornell came charging again on a fluke play seconds later and scored the only try of the game, ending the score at 5-0.

“I think this was a great tournament, and I don’t think the scores were reflective of how well we played,” said Friedman.

The Lady White Dawgs now must prepare for their first official league game away against Southern Connecticut next Saturday.

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