Women's Rugby: Tigers finish third at College Sevens
Thirteen members of the women’s rugby team flew to Texas last weekend to play in the USA Rugby College Sevens National Championship in College Station, Texas. The Tigers repeated their 2011 success and placed third in the tournament with a 17-7 win over Texas.
“We came out as the more confident, better team. We played really well because it was our last game that we were going to play there, so we put everything we had into it,” senior Ariel Jespersen said.
But Princeton did not begin its weekend playing as well as it did in the third-place match.
“We lost our first game [against James Madison] in a game that we were kind of expected to win, which set us kind of on an uphill battle,” junior co-captain Morgan Arthur said. “It meant that if we lost another game in the pool play, we wouldn’t qualify to go on.”
With a necessary 21-0 victory over Oregon State, the Tigers pulled themselves into the championship bracket. In the quarterfinals, Princeton picked up an easy 10-0 win over California to advance further.
Princeton’s growing rivalry with Navy was showcased in the semifinal game. The Tigers had not lost a match to the Midshipmen in the last four meetings, but Navy was still dangerous — Princeton had just barely won their last match in overtime. The Midshipmen came out even stronger this time, relegating the Tigers to the third-place game with a 10-5 win.
Princeton’s participation in the tournament marks a national trend toward teams’ participation in sevens, as opposed to the 15-player version. The move began with the announcement that women’s sevens would be an official Olympic sport in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. As a result, many club and collegiate teams have begun participating in an increased number of sevens tournaments.
“You’re seeing that on the West Coast,” Arthur said. “A lot of teams didn’t play fifteens all fall; they only played sevens. A lot of teams are trying to develop sevens more because it’s going to be in the Olympics. You’re seeing a lot of growth in the sport around the country.”
Sevens play differs from the more traditional version in both rules of play as well as its appeal to fans. Jespersen and Arthur noted that sevens was chosen over fifteens for the Olympics because the games are significantly shorter and because fewer players on the field lead to increased visibility.
Princeton plays 12 weeks of fifteens throughout the year, but its success in sevens at such a national level may cause the team to think more about moving with the trend.
Next for the Tigers is a trip to San Diego over spring break. Not only will they be playing teams at the collegiate level, they will also be facing other women’s club rugby teams.
Though the club level of play is much higher than college games, co-captain and senior Olivia Garard said, “It’s really helpful for us as a team.”