Including last year’s national championship, the women’s rugby team is 2-2 in its last four matches.
Cause for concern?
The Owls reminded Saint Joseph’s who is the top team in the Division II Bracket D, handing the Hawks a lopsided 48-0 victory on Saturday. The Owls improved to 2-1 on the season.
Bouncing back from a loss last week, the Owls controlled every aspect of the game. Like a lot of the Owls’ opponents last season, St. Joe’s struggled to get the ball out of its own end.
Sophomore Christina Landis scored the Owls’ first try of the day less than a minute into the match, and the Hawks’ first march on goal came at the conclusion of the first half. Even then, the Hawks failed to score, preserving the Owls’ 26-0 lead.
Senior Vanesha McGee, whom the St. Joe’s defense could not match, finished the day with a team-high two tries.
Junior Allison Heiss made four conversion kicks in the match. Conversion kicks were a problem for the Owls last year.
“Since last spring we’ve kind of been focusing a little bit more on kicking,” McGee said. “We haven’t perfected it by any means yet, but I think we’re definitely improving.”
With two wins in their first three games, the women’s rugby team seems well on its way to their fourth straight trip to the Division II national championship match.
This season, some of the Owls have already survived some of their biggest tests.
In the fall season’s first three weeks, the Owls struggled to get past the Delaware, 30-19, and fell to Princeton, the No. 3 team in Division I.
Last year, the Owls were on the verge of winning back-to-back Division II titles when they were defeated in the national championship by Providence.
“It was definitely a hard game,” McGee said, “but I think that everybody would agree as a team that we peaked before nationals. It just wasn’t our day.”
This year, they are back playing their way into national contention in the East Penn Rugby Union.
The playoff system in rugby is different than those used by other college sports. If the Owls take the EPRU Division II title, which they’ve done for the past two years, they’ll participate in the MARFU in the spring season.
As one of the elite squads in Division II, members of the team have discussed possibly joining Division I. With more players than ever before, the Owls plan to make the jump next year. The club considered changing over after last season, but the Owls were unsure heading into this season if they would have enough players.
“We had such small numbers to move up to D-I,” McGee said. “With Division I we wanted more stability in our team so we wanted to be able to have two sides rather than one.”
With the roster now full with a large number of transfers and new players, the Owls’ goals are measured.
“Preparation is really what we’re going for this year,” McGee said. “Whether that means a national championship, nobody knows.”
Christopher Reber can be reached at email@example.com.