After the women's rugby football club's performance two weekends ago, many might have wondered why the team did not make it to the nationals this spring as it did for the last three years. Winning the tournament in 1995 and 1996, the rugby team was one of many Princeton teams to take home a national championship.
But last fall – the time of year when teams qualify for spring nationals – the Tigers lost to Navy at the Mid-Atlantic Regional finals, which brought an abrupt end to their national championship hopes for this season. Despite the absence of a run at nationals, however, Princeton continues to play with determination.
And they continue to play against top competition. Head coach Alex Curtis has arranged a series of spring matches with all of the teams that are going to the championships May 2-3.
"Basically our coach set up this league this spring so we could play the teams that are going to nationals, even though we are not going this year," sophomore fullback Katie Stewart said.
Princeton had a chance to exact revenge on Navy April 5, and did a good job of it, smashing the powerful Midshipmen, 25-10, and beating Virginia Tech, 24-0, a day later.
"I think that the game against Navy was proof that we have unbelievable depth," Stewart said. "We were plagued with injuries and we put a team together of players at new positions. It was amazing."
Until this past Saturday's loss to Penn State, 24-10, Princeton had no problem handling the competition it would have faced in the finals.
It was the injuries to many of the team's key players this season that contributed to Princeton's loss to Penn State. Their absence was clearly felt when the Tigers faced the Nittany Lions this weekend.
On the DL
Three key sophomores have been missing from the lineup as of late. Fly-half Liz Bogle fractured her arm just before the Navy game, while Stewart tore her anterior cruciate ligament during the contest against the Midshipmen. (Position) Sydney Tarzwell has been plagued with an off-and-on illness the past month.
Clearly, the rugby team has to deal with adversity in the remaining two weekends of the season. New players stepping into unfamiliar positions will be key if the Tigers are to compete next season as they have in the past. When the diplomas are handed out this year, Princeton will lose more than a dozen important players.
"The future of our team is in the hands of the rookies," Stewart said. "We want to continue the tradition of good Princeton rugby."
Even though the Tigers have only two weekends of play remaining this year, every match will still be treated as a challenge. This weekend, Princeton will travel to the West Chester tournament, where it will face Ivy League foe and national contender Harvard. The following weekend, the team will participate in the Ivy League championship, where the Crimson will be eager to secure the title.
"It will be pretty good competition this weekend; Harvard is going to the finals this year," Stewart said. "We are always the underdogs, no matter what."