Congratulations to the Colgate Women’s Rugby team, which fought its way to victory at the NSCRO 7s National Championship tournament, April 29–30, in Pittsburgh, Penn. Here’s a play-by-play of the weekend’s events, brought to you by scrumhalf Bria Vicenti ’17.
On the first day of the NSCRO National Tournament, the Colgate Women’s Rugby team maintained its undefeated record, winning first in its pool and allowing it to claim a spot in the national semi-finals the following day.
The first match of the day brought the team head-to-head with Simpson College. The first few minutes of the game were, unfortunately, filled with penalties from Colgate. Determined to shift the game in a different direction, Ciara Pettinos ’17 snuck through the Simpson defensive line to score. Aurelia Casarrubias ’17 followed up with a beautiful run, which was converted by Pettinos. A powerful drive to the try line by captain Meg Pane ’17 brought us into the second half with a score of 17–5.
The second half of the game again started off with a lot of penalties from both teams, but that was put to an end by a long breakaway try by Bria Vicenti ’17 and a conversion by Pettinos. The Colgate subs then joined the match for the last few minutes to show off what they could do. Two last-minute tries and one conversion from Simpson closed out the game, still leaving Colgate with the win and a final score of 22–17.
The second match of pool play was against Endicott College, a team we defeated during the regional playoffs of our 15s season, 74–5. Endicott turned out to play a very different 7s game than 15s, however, and started the match off with a long breakaway try and a successful conversion.
Colgate answered a few minutes later with a strong push through the line by Erica “Texas” Hiddink ’17 and a quick offload to Pettinos. Following a successful conversion by Pettinos, the last play of the half ended with a try by Aurelia Casarrubias ’17, bringing the score at the half to 12–7. In the middle of the half-time break, the weather conditions took a turn for the worse. After 2.5 hours of lightning delays, Colgate took to the field again, determined to snag the win from Endicott.
Possession switched between the two teams for the majority of the half, until a strong push from Pettinos enabled Nat Smith ’17 to sneak through the line and score. Colgate then used all five substitutions to bring the newer players onto the pitch, ending the match with a breakaway try by Katie Rich ’20 and a win for Colgate with a final score of 24–7.
After a long day of sitting in the vans, Colgate Rugby was eager to get out into the newly emerging sunshine and compete in our last round of pool play against Neumann University from Philadelphia. Pettinos started the match off by breaking through the Neumann line to score, dotting the ball down between the uprights and setting herself up for a successful conversion after Neumann inexplicably stopped moving as soon as she crossed the line.
Nat Smith ’17 scored another for Colgate after sneaking around the scrum to begin a long breakaway, which was also converted by Pettinos. Emelei Klein ’19 and Katie Rich ’20 brought another 10 points to Colgate with huge breakaways of their own, one of which was converted by Pettinos to bring us into the second half with a score of 26–0. The Colgate substitutes came onto the pitch during the second half and showed us what they could do, with Mackay Peltzer ’19 dotting it down off of a long run by Anna Hart ’20.
We got to see Smith jump in her first lineout, and the match came to a close after another long breakaway by Rich. She finished the match by realizing no kickers were left on the field, asking if she should try to convert it, and then beautifully executing her third-ever dropkick to leave Colgate with a final win of 38–0 over Neumann!
For the last match of the first day of play, Colgate competed against York College to determine who would move on to the semi-finals the next day. Colgate came out strong with a push through the line by Hiddink, converted by Pettinos. York soon answered with a try of their own, which was not converted.
After a lot of back and forth action Aurelia Casarrubias ’17 snuck around the York defense for a tremendous breakaway, which was again converted by Pettinos to bring the score to 14–5 at the half. The second half of the match was spent almost entirely in our half of the field, where a strong push off of a penalty by Hiddink got the ball to Meg Pane ’17 to score. The match ended with a “too little too late” breakaway by York, leaving Colgate with a win of 19–12 and a spot in the national semi-finals the next day!
Eyes on the prize, ladies.
To start off the second day of the NSCRO 7s National Championship, Colgate faced off against Lee University (for the 3rd consecutive year) in the semi-final match of a national tournament. The game started off rough for Colgate, with a series of successive penalties leading up to a yellow card, which left the team down a player for a portion of the second half.
Lee capitalized on this to score two breakaway tries, neither of which were converted. Toward the end of the first half, a long breakaway by Bria Vicenti ’17 brought the ball back into Colgate’s half of the field, and a swiped lineout by Pettinos allowed Hiddink to push through Lee’s defensive line for a try. The half ended with Colgate down to Lee with a score of 5–10.
Colgate returned to the pitch after halftime determined to win back the lead and started off strong with a tremendous full-field breakaway try and conversion by Pettinos. Pettinos repeated the procedure just a few moments later with a long run towards the try line with a poached ball. She converted once again to bring Colgate into the lead. The remainder of the second half flew by with a long series of penalties from Lee. The match ended in Colgate’s favor with a last minute try and conversion by Lee, which wasn’t able to overcome the deficit from missed conversions in the first half and left Colgate with a win of 19–17.
After a long break, Colgate returned to Founder’s Field for the last time to take on six-time national champions Wayne State, who narrowly beat us out for the NSCRO 15 National Championship in the fall. Colgate was determined finally to secure a national title, though, and came out with strong defense and patient attack play.
Successive penalties by Wayne brought the ball into Colgate’s half, where a final push by Smith (not Vicenti, as stated by the announcers) awarded Colgate our first try. A few minutes later, Smith capitalized on a yellow card for Wayne to score again, bringing Colgate to the half with a score of 10–0.
The second half was filled with strong defensive play from both teams, but Wayne managed to sneak along the sideline for their first try. Pettinos capitalized on a failed quick lineout by Wayne just a few moments later and poached the ball on the five-meter line to score. The last play of the game allowed Wayne one more try off of a failed kick to touch by Colgate. But, just as in the previous game, the final try wasn’t enough to overcome Colgate’s lead and left Colgate with a hard-fought national title victory!
Amidst tears and cheers, Colgate gathered on the pitch to revel in a long-awaited win. We came off only to be greeted by a standing ovation from several of the other teams remaining at the tournament, many of which had been cheering for us all day and all of which we GREATLY appreciate for their camaraderie and support. Following a lot of hugging, the tournament participants gathered for the awards ceremony, where we finally claimed the national trophy as our own.
We are SO proud of senior Ciara Pettinos, who was not only named to the all-tournament team during the awards ceremony but was also named the Most Valuable Player of the entire championship. As the announcers during the Lee game put it, “Ciara is very athletic” — and so much more. Ciara was an instrumental player both offensively and defensively during her four years as a member of the Colgate Women’s Rugby team, and we are so glad that she has been recognized for her dedication to the sport and our team, let alone her incredible rugby skills.
Following the MVP award, Ciara was recognized by The Rugby Breakdown as their player of the week, and won the overall competition for player of the month. Congratulations, Ciara!
Although it still seems surreal that the national title is ours, we are so excited that we were finally able to secure the win and so grateful for all of the support we had along the way. Near and far, the members of the CWRFC community have shown us nothing but love, and we truly couldn’t have made it through the season — let alone to the national title — without each and every one of you.
We were lucky to get to see our beloved former coach, Anne-Marie Lemal Brown, at nationals, and we want to give thanks to her for the wonderful pictures of the tournament. We also want to thank our parents (especially Scott Baxendell, parent of Kelly ’18, who came to every tournament this spring to provide us with food and film our matches despite the fact that his daughter is abroad).
Huge thanks to all of the fans and alumni who cheered us on from around the world, and so much love and gratitude to anyone who has ever been a part of our community. You all made this win possible, and we can never thank you enough.