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Tigers fall to Army in historic women’s rugby varsity home opener

<h5>Varsity women’s rugby host their first ever game at West Windsor Fields in history.&nbsp;</h5>
<h6><a href="https://twitter.com/PUWRFC/status/1568790108631093248/photo/1" target="_self">@PUWRFC/Twitter.&nbsp;</a></h6>
Varsity women’s rugby host their first ever game at West Windsor Fields in history. 
@PUWRFC/Twitter. 

The women’s rugby team (0–2) hosted the Army Black Knights (2–0) for its first-ever home match as a varsity team. Despite their speed and the home field advantage, the Tigers had difficulty rebutting the forceful attacks from their Army challengers and succumbed to an 87–0 loss.

Army put ink on the scoresheet early, getting a try less than two minutes into the match. The team was strong on conversions, scoring on eight out of 13.

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Although the Tigers went down early, their defense responded with impressive tackling, successfully keeping Army at bay near the end of the first half. However, even with the burst in defense, the team had difficulty keeping possession of the ball.

Army opened the second half strong as well, earning a try around 90 seconds in. Despite the lopsided scoring, the Tigers continued to respond with a lot of contact and transitioned well from attacking and defending.

Junior flyhalf and co-captain Sophia Villacorta was integral to this end, both fighting for the Tigers to keep possession following scrums, while also helping with defensive tackling.

In the final stages of the game, the Tigers, as they continued to have difficulty keeping possession, had a few turnovers, some of which Army capitalized on to earn tries.

Senior flanker and co-captain Kathryn-Alexa Kennedy, who has been part of the team since the fall of 2019, told The Daily Princetonian that going varsity is a big step.

“We’re young, and we’re building. We have three recruits that came on, and it’s been really awesome to learn from them and see them play,” she said.

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Dozens of Princetonians, including University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack ’00, made the trek down to West Windsor Fields to show their support. Additionally, the match was held on Alumni Appreciation Day, and alumni of the women’s rugby team were honored at halftime.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ women’s rugby head coach Josie Ziluca said that despite the loss, she was impressed with the team’s efforts.

“We still have a lot to learn, and they’re growing every single week. And I think you know they’re proud of themselves; I’m proud of them,” said Ziluca, who joined the Tigers in the fall of 2019. “We can't look at scores. We can't look at wins and losses.”

“We just want to make sure that we're growing our game because we are a younger team, new to rugby,” Ziluca said. ““We're not close to campus out here, but the amount of fans we had out was pretty awesome. And just the support that we feel from Athletics; we can feel the love.”

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Anna Albrecht, the assistant coach for the team, described the team’s journey in reaching the varsity level as a long time coming.

“You're stepping into a moment of history, but as soon as you get boots on the ground, feeling it, feeling the alumni come in, and feeling what it means to the players is an entirely different thing. And I am just so honored to be here,” she told the ‘Prince.’

The Tigers will host the Brown Bears at the West Windsor Fields for their second home game on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Sandeep Mangat is guest contributor for Sports and an Associate News Editor who has reported on labor shortages on and off campus, University guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, international student life, and research led by Princeton faculty. He can be reached at smangat@princeton.edu and on Twitter @s_smangat.

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