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Fall 2009 Game Summaries

UMass |Brown |Yale | Army|Vassar |UCONN | Providence

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DWRC 0 vs. UMASS 25
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Dartmouth drops D-I Premier League Opener

Plagued by a combination of pre-season injuries, unavoidable absences, and an ongoing search for a #10 who can drive an aggressive offense, the DWRC first fifteen were unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities as they came up short in their season opener.   Loose forward play was much improved over pre-season scrimmage performances against University of Norwich and Boston Women, but tentative distribution in the backs made it difficult to finish and counterattacking woes provided UMass with significant territorial advantage. 

UMass dominated the first 13 minutes of the match, scoring their first try off the opening kickoff and their second try 11 minutes later.    But the Big Green settled in and found it’s rhythm, and UMass was on defense for the remainder of the first half. Dartmouth’s superior fitness and aggressive rucking, along with poor handling from the UMass centers, kept the Big Green alive and knocking on their try line until the break whistle blew.  (0-10 at half).

UMass took to the air in the second half,  giving the usually confident Dartmouth back three a run for their money.   The first deep kick of the second half resulted in a Dartmouth lineout on the Dartmouth 10.   The Minutewomen  stole the lineout, controlling possession long enough to reward their kicker with a try of her own in the opposite corner.   The last try of the match was also a result of a deep kick, misfielded by Dartmouth and capitalized on by UMass chasers. 

While many Dartmouth players showed improvement and even moments of brilliance, noteworthy performances were delivered by forwards Captain  #8 Meghan “Eagle” McDavid  ’10, with an all-around fantastic match, and winger Kristen Liu ’11, who had a blazing debut at outside center. 

DWRC 0 vs. BWRFC 24
Saturday, September 19, 2009

The DWRC - Bear match ups are always well-contested, and this Saturday, despite the lopsided score, was no exception. Dartmouth dominated line outs and matched up equally in set scrums. Both teams played very aggressive and pressurized defense around breakdowns, causing multiple back-and-forth turnovers. Brown's aggression was much less disciplined than the Big Green's, resulting in a penalty ratio of 16-3, including a yellow card for repeated offsides infractions and a red card for an illegal dump tackle. The Big Green often had the momentum because of Brown's plethora of penalties, but DWRC #9 Ilda Bajraktari '11 and forwards standout and captain Meghan McDavid '10, filling in at flyhalf, had a rough day connecting, resulting in difficulty on attack out of the breakdowns.

Turnovers continued to be a main theme of the match, as Brown's dynamic offense was stymied by 17 knock-ons and Dartmouth added to the scrum count with 9 of their own. Even more indicative of the fierce competition that took place during this match were Brown's 16 and Dartmouth's 21 turnovers in the loose. Ball carriers were either caught on their heals by launching defenders or isolated beyond the gain line as defenders collapsed around them, and offensive rucks were challenged by aggressive counter-rucking by both sides.

The DWRC executed 32 long offensive series, while Brown managed only 27 offensive sets of much shorter duration. Still, Dartmouth continued their four-week struggle to find their rhythm in the backline, and under terrific pressure from Brown's big twin sister centers the newest version of the Big Green backline found themselves moving laterally instead of vertically, often finding touch instead of the try line. Meanwhile, Brown's fast-moving and aggressive backline were able to go North-South when it mattered, breaking away for 3 of the Bears' 4 tries.

At half, the score was 12- 0 and the DWRC was very much in the match. Brown played the third quarter and much of the fourth down a sin-binned player, and still managed two fourth quarter tries. The Bears converted two tries for a total of 24 points.

Brown has it's sight set on repeating as NRU champions and hopeful National Final Four contenders for the third year in a row, while Dartmouth continues to improve on a weekly basis and is still in playoff contention despite its two losses in tough opening league matches.

The DWRC B-side faced off against Brown's tough B-side in a 40 minute match which showcased Brown's size and speed in the centers. Dartmouth, with several absences due to injury and three brand-new players, was somewhat disorganized and had little opportunity for defense through multiple phases. Dartmouth's set pieces, particularly lineouts, were outstanding, but the Big Green had few offensive series because of disorganization at the tackle. Still, the DWRC B-side is expected to be strong this season as the team roster increases in number and as the new players are integrated this week. Final Score- Dartmouth 0, Brown 30.

DWRC 36 vs. Yale 0
Saturday, October 3, 2009

The DWRC relied on a combination of territorial kicking and vertical attacks as torrential rain made for dicey handling conditions last Saturday. The wide, well-drained surface of Brophy Field provided ample target areas for well-placed kicks from Captains Meghan "Eagle" McDavid '10 and Caroline Cima '10. The inexperienced Elis responded with disorganization in the counter-attack, creating opportunities for the Big Green to recover possession and patiently work it's way into the try zone with vertical attacks up to the 22 and a wide game inside the green zone.

The most striking aspect of the match, however, was the DWRC's dominance in the forwards. Referee Derek Bellin forced the eager Big Green pack to back off on engagement in the scrum so that the less aggressive Eli's would remain steady, but hooker Jamie Smart '10 still won several scrums against the head. Line outs were more of the same as the Big Green dominated both offensively and defensively, stealing most of Yale's short line outs and executing offensive line outs with flair despite the slippery conditions.

Dartmouth arrived at the ruck in a timely fashion, controlling possession and creating multiple offensive phases focused on driving the ball on a north-south axis by breaking through a flat-footed Eli defensive line. #9 Ilda Bajraktari '11 enjoyed success in her pressure defense while improving significantly in her offensive distribution, giving the Big Green offense the shot in the arm it has needed in the last three (scoreless) weeks.

Dartmouth's significant improvement in both game management and overall team play was best evidenced in the six tries scored on the day. While the forwards controlled the ball and moved it between the 22's, outside backs finished all six drives. Winger Leah Weisman '10 had a great day with many excellent runs and two touch-downs, as well as three of six tough conversions. #15 Cima contributed two more tries along with an outstanding defensive effort, and hard-running outside center Kristen Liu '11 added her own pair, one on a brilliant mid-sprint pick-up of a Cima squibb kick through the centers.

The DWRC Second Fifteen did not see action this weekend as Yale could not field a second side, but with some promising 13's and many solid veterans the B's are looking forward to six more weeks of exciting rugby.

DWRC 10 vs. Women's Army Rugby 55
Saturday, October 10, 2009

Women's Army Rugby (W.A.R.) continued it's dominance of NERFU D-I as it's well-oiled offensive machine rumbled down Brophy Field with 7 tries in the first half of its showdown with the DWRC this past weekend.
With a score of 45-5 at half, it appeared that Dartmouth was heading for the same sort of triple-figure trouncing suffered by UCONN, Yale, and Providence College at the hands of Army in earlier divisional play. But the Big Green's own machine roared alive in the second forty as the DWRC dished up crowd-pleasing offensive breaks, defensive chase-downs, and goal-line stands, giving up only two tries and scoring a second try of it's own before the 80 minute whistle blew.

The DWRC got some satisfaction not only from their gutsy second-half performance but also from dashing Army's hope of a perfect league point differential, scoring the first 10 points of the season against a very fit, very aggressive, and very well-coached Army squad.

W.A.R.'s control of the offensive breakdown and aggressive play in defensive set pieces provided playmaker Barbara Lodwick #12 with ample opportunity to set up a hard-running back three led by All-American and U-20 National Team Player Jessica Sexauer #15. Taking advantage of a disorganized Dartmouth defense in the centers and moving the ball wide with confidence and pace, Army showed that they have taken their game to a new level and that they will be contenders on the national stage this year.

The DWRC's first try came at the 25 minute mark, as Captain "Eagle" McDavid '10 charged after a bad pass from the back of an Army ruck and kicked the ball into the green zone. An Army penalty ensued as they scrambled to defend their tryline and unblemished points-against stat, and the DWRC spun the ball wide to fleet-footed Leah Weisman '10 who beat her opposite around the corner and touched the ball down.
The second Big Green try also came after an Army penalty, this one at the 70 minute mark, as Jamie Smart '10 responded with a quick tap and offensive numbers on the blind side and Captain Caroline Cima '10 took a short pass at pace for the score.

Even at mid-season, the DWRC continues to be challenged with personnel changes in the backline, trying to integrate new players with athletic talent but no rugby experience into a fast-paced defense. Rookie Ashley '13 had a rough time in the centers for the first forty, but made some great tackles and runs at wing in the second half. Other half-time personnel adjustments, combined with Army's own substitutions, including replacement of Sexaur (who'd gotten a hat trick in the first half) and Lodwick, worked well for the Big Green.

Despite the challenges it faces, The Big Green is definitely in contention for NRU Playoffs as it continues to improve on every front. The final three matches of NERFU league play, beginning with a match at Vassar this Saturday at 2:00 pm, also appear to be the less challenging portion of this tough D-I schedule. And with the NRU's three seeds into the National Tournament again this fall and three more weeks to solidify it's elusive offense and harden it's gutsy defense, the DWRC is by no means out of the running for another berth in the National Round of Sixteen.

The DWRC Second Side, with several new players making their game debut, struggled to contain the more experienced Army squad. Like the First Fifteen, the DWRC Seconds showed marked improvement in the second half, with improved organization at the breakdown and more aggressive offensive attack. Army 50 DWRC 0.

DWRC 20 vs. Vassar 25
Saturday, October 17, 2009

On paper the DWRC was the stronger squad going into last weekend's pivotal Division I match against Vassar College. Vassar had tied Yale while Dartmouth beat the Eli's 36-0, and both UMASS and Brown put up 25 points more on Vassar than they had on The Big Green. But another unexpected chapter was written in this storied rivalry as Dartmouth came away with a tough loss despite dominance up front and a mid-match offensive flurry. The home team rallied to a 10- 0 start behind the exuberant play of #9 Kerl Peacock and the powerful running of center Willa Conway. Dartmouth came out with a fury in the second half, catching Vassar on their heals to pull ahead 20-17. Both squads had players out with the flu and several more on the pitch who were not in top physical form, and it showed, with a combined total of 57 turnovers. The match was played at a slower pace than the DWRC has been accustomed to this season, but the end of the match showed further degradation as exhaustion and scoring urgency led to sloppy play at the breakdowns. The DWRC gave up several key penalties, including one in front of the posts to tie the match at 20-20, and two mid-field that allowed Vassar to kick themselves back into scoring range for the winning try. The scoring drives that The Big Green put together in the second half were quite impressive, including a 3 minute-long end-to-end series complete with phases, continuity, and a counterattack, which the referee heartily proclaimed the "try of the season".

Dartmouth's first try came in the opening minutes of the second half, when Ashley Afranie-Sakyi '13, the only first-year on the first fifteen roster, scooped up the ball in a scramble for a mishandled pass and burst through several tackles to lead the charge. She off-loaded to flanker Alyssa Belisle TH'12 who continued to power through cover defenders before making the last-needed pass to speedster Leah Weisman '10, who put it in fifth gear and finished for the try.

The DWRC's next try came off a penalty quick tap from Jamie Smart '10 (filling in at #9 for Ilda Bajraktari, who comes off the injured reserve list this week) to Captain Caroline Cima '10 for an easy touch-down.
The "try of the season" began with the Vassar kickoff after Cima's touch-down. After several well-controlled forward attacks, Belisle again broke down the middle with support from Cima. The tackle was made at the 7 meter mark, but still the DWRC controlled the breakdown and swung the ball wide. A mishandling allowed a Vassar defender to get a clearing kick back to the fifty, where Cima and her back three were ready for the counter-attack. Another one-two punch from the young phenon Afranie-Sakyi and Belisle ensued, followed by continuity and that involved seven (!) more Dartmouth players before Belisle dove in for the try.

The DWRC's last try came as Weisman broke loose from more labored play in the middle and outran several defenders late in the match. #8 Liz Rexford had a great support game, and hooker Lauren diBiccari and her forward pack did an excellent job in the scrums, stealing put-ins and driving Vassar off of a quarter of their scrums.

DWRC B's 20, Vassar B's 0
The 4 hour bus ride was well worth it for the DWRC Seconds, as they racked up 4 tries against a mixed A-B Vassar Side for their second win of the season. Hooker Olivia Stalcup '10 and flanker Rita-Louise Montour '13 played with aggression and a high work rate, and Montour scored the first and last try of the match. Center Carolyn Mabee '11 and winger Sayeh Gorjifard '13 (in her very first match) both raced into the try zone after well-executed offensive assaults.

DWRC 15 vs. UCONN 5
Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surface and weather conditions on Brophy Field went from bad to worse last Saturday, but the DWRC got better and better with a new line up quickly settling into a very physical offense and pressurized defense. Players splashed through deepening surface water and often slid several meters in tackles, having to work extra-hard to keep the ball in hand or to find pace while chasing territorial kicks. Remarkably, the grass remained rooted and mud was never a factor as the incredible engineering of Dartmouth's main pitch withstood the test.

UCONN, put the ball in the air every chance they got. #10 Julie Hartley worked with high up-and-unders and some nice chips over the defensive line, #12 Patty Collins sent the ball long with a powerful boot, and #15 Lily Keesler had lots of opportunity to show off her strong clearing kicks as the game was played largely in UCONN's defensive end. Usually, severe weather conditions dictate that kicks will be difficult to catch and running from deep will be even more difficult, so a kicking game can effectively pin opponents to their own tryline. On Saturday, however, the DWRC counterattack was in top form, with Kristen Liu '11 leading the charge at fullback and flanker Liz Rexford '08 coming back for several key recoveries. Unbelievably, 25 out of 28 counterattacks had positive outcomes, with Liu breaking tackle after tackle and making many 10-50 meter runs on her own, or securing possession whenever her wings were brought down.

Dartmouth's own offense utilized a combination of kick and chase, vertical attack by the forwards, and vertical attack by strong runners in the centers. Keeping the ball in hand for much of the game allowed Dartmouth to work it's way into scoring position through grueling multi-phase play. Handling conditions did lead to a high number of turnovers (22 knock-ons alone), but the DWRC 's pressure defense at the set scrum and UCONN's kicking plan provided all that was needed to quickly re-gain possession lost because of mishandled passes.This match also saw the debut of former fullback Caroline Cima '10 (C) at flyhalf. The #10 position has been a revolving door all season - Cima is the fifth to take the reigns-but it appears that the DWRC has finally found what it's been searching for. This captain's strong kicking skills, her extremely high work rate and ability to motivate the rest of the line, and the combination of her speed with the power running of centers Alyssa Belisle TH '11 and Ashley Afranie-Sakyi '13 all bode well for the DWRC as they approach NRU playoff time.The Huskies were on the board early with their lone try as a Dartmouth penalty at the 15 meter mark set them up for a quick vertical attack and spin out wide.

Dartmouth answered in the second quarter as several UCONN penalties put the Big Green on the UCONN 30. Liu sliced through the centers to the 15, and two phases later Leah Weisman '10 turned the corner on the UCONN wing as was in for the 5. The DWRC followed that with a great offensive drive at the end of the second half, but left it on the field with a knock-on at the 2 meter mark. At the halftime whistle the score remained tied at 5-all.

The final forty minutes belonged to the DWRC, as UCONN's only forays into Dartmouth territory came with their kickoffs and never went beyond the Dartmouth 40 meter line. A long kick return by Liu led to a defensive line out on UCONN's 25, and Dartmouth quickly regained possession with pressure on the Huskies' halfbacks. A lengthy multiphase attack resulted in a knock-on and defensive scrum. Flanker Liz Rexford, with an aggressive attack off the scrum, dove on a dropped ball for the second DWRC try as UCONN's #15 slipped and fell in an attempted clearing kick. The last Big Green try came in the fourth quarter as the DWRC's repeated assault on the Husky try line finally bore fruit. Hooker Jamie Smart '10 stole the hook at a defensive scrum on the five meter line, and it was another captains' "double play" with a #8 pickup from the back of the scrum by Meghan "Eagle" McDavid '10 (C) delivered to #10 Caroline Cima (C) who swept in for the try. Final score- 15-5.

DWRC B's 0, UCONN B's 5
The B-side match was cut short as field conditions continued to deteriorate. Thirty-five minutes of play included solid set pieces by the DWRC's promising young forwards, with flanker Karolina Piszczek '12 playing outstanding defense. Center Carolyn Mabee '12 and #15 Maddy Sturm '13 sliced through the UCONN line several times to the delight of the soggy spectators, but the DWRC could not string enough offense together in the standing water to come up with another "W".

DWRC 70 vs. Providence College 5
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Last Saturday Dartmouth rolled out a much-improved offensive configuration and continued to fine-tune impressive set pieces as fans and players welcomed blustery conditions in lieu of the previous Saturday's relentless deluge. Place kicker Leah Weisman '10 got great practice in tough windy conditions as she found the sweet spot and converted 5 of 12 tries, most from very difficult angles. Weisman accounted for a total of 30 of Dartmouth's 70 points, dancing through flat-footed outside defenders for four tries in addition to her 10 kicking points.

But the big story of the day was, after two months of "research and development", the birth of an offensive pattern and strategy that has the potential to propel the DWRC back into the National arena. Flanker Alyssa Belisle TH '12 and rookie-wing Ashley Afranie-Sakyi '13 are now pounding through the centers at #12 and #13, and fullback(C) Caroline Cima '10 now dons the #10 jersey but continues to use her speed on blindside sweeps and on offloads from her hard-running centers. Center Janel diBiccari '10 shifts her high work rate and great support lines out to wing, where she scored her first career try this weekend, while winger Weisman is the sole three quarters who retains the number on her back. Winger Kristen Liu '12 takes up the helm as the leader of the back three at fullback, and while she generally was not needed against Providence to finish, she proved her mettle against UCONN in the rain as she ran back kick after kick, gaining several hundred meters for the Big Green with focused, aggressive counterattacks.

The DWRC forwards were under-challenged in the Providence match, and won every Providence set piece in the first half. In the spirit of the game, the DWRC allowed Providence to win their own set pieces between the 22's during the second forty, providing the struggling Friars some unaccustomed offense and playoff-bound Big Green some much-needed defensive practice. Several substitutes also saw time in the second half, including promising young winger Melanie Daulton '12 in her first A-side match. Points: Weisman 30, Afranie-Sakyi 10, Liu 10, Elizabeth L. Rexford 10, Elena Martinez de Andino 5, Janel diBicarri 5

Dartmouth B's 5, Colby Sawyer A's 0
The DWRC B's continued their winning ways despite disorganized rucks, managing to stay on top with solid set pieces and hard running from fullback Maddy Sturm '13, center Carolyn Mabee '12, and #8 Vanessa Mercado '12.