In women’s rugby varsity debut, Bears square off against former Ivy champs

Two-a-days, professional trainers place women’s rugby on the path to success

Sports Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2014

The women’s rugby team looks to defeat a strong Harvard squad in Cambridge in its season opener Saturday afternoon — the first varsity rugby game in Ivy League history. Coming into its first year as a varsity squad, Bruno steps onto the pitch a year after the Crimson, which acquired varsity status in 2013.

“They’ve probably had more practice time than we’ve had,” said co-captain Oksana Goretaya ’17. “But skill-wise, we’re definitely going to put up a good fight.”

Last fall, Harvard defeated Bruno twice, once by a margin of 50 points and once by 26 points. But the Bears worked hard over the summer, running two-a-days during preseason and adapting to a more demanding practice schedule. In addition, the team has the advantage of having healthier players, which was not true throughout last year’s season when it lacked access to athletic trainers.

Harvard captured the Ivy title last year and was the only Ivy to qualify for the Division I National Championships. Goretaya reported that the Crimson’s flankers are rumored to be very strong this year, so the Bears’ flyhalf will have to be up to that challenge.

“They have an entire year of varsity playing on us, so they’ve had the trainers, they’ve had the staff, they’ve had the practice time and the lift time, so they’re obviously going to be a strong team,” Goretaya said. “But … they’ve also lost a lot of seniors, so it’s a rebuilding year for them.”

With the loss of a 10-woman strong senior class, among which was their leading scorer, the Crimson has weak spots, upon which the Bears will look to capitalize.

The Bears will rely on athleticism Saturday, fielding a roster of 24, which is relatively small for a varsity squad. But what it lacks in numbers, the team makes up for in depth and competitive drive.

“Harvard should definitely worry about everyone on our team,” Goretaya said. This includes an impressive newcomer to the sport in Kebbeh Darpolor ’16, a former member of Brown’s track and field team. “She’s an amazing runner,” Goretaya said. “She’s our powerhouse, essentially.”

In addition, the Bears have been working on their coordination and ability to work as one relentless unit.

“Sometimes in rugby there can be a separation between the forwards and the backs, so they work as two separate groups,” Goretaya said. “What we’ve been working on as a team is putting those two pieces together and making us an unstoppable 15-person team.”

And there is no doubt in players’ minds that they are ready for the challenge.

“There are a few kinks we still need to work out,” Goretaya said. “But I think if we go in with confidence, go in with the thought of winning and knowing that we’re going to win, it’s going to help us push through those 80 minutes. We’re definitely ready.”


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