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Navy stands between rugby, perfect season

Navy plays more physical style than most Ivy foes, which could provide major test for Bears

The U.S. Naval Academy is the rugby team’s last stumbling block on the path to what might be Brown’s only chance at a perfect regular-season sport this fall. If Bruno beats Navy (1-3), its only non-conference opponent, on Saturday, it will cap off an undefeated conference record secured last weekend with a win over Princeton (3-2).

But the Bears have ostensibly saved their toughest challenge for last. “Navy will be a very strong competitor,” said Head Coach Kathleen Flores. “Their program will be much more like a varsity program with a high time commitment, meaning players are learning more in shorter amounts of time. I expect they will be much stronger than the Ivy League.”

While Bruno dominated Ivy rivals this year and sits quite convincingly atop the conference as the only team with more than three wins, the Bears have not been forced to play a tight game since their first match of the season against Harvard (3-2). Other than that matchup, the squad posted winning margins of at least 36 points every game.

“We still haven’t reached our own potential yet,” Flores said. “We haven’t committed fully to a game plan from beginning to end. That’s not to say we haven’t done well. As we move forward to stronger teams, we need to establish the bar sooner and accept nothing less.”

For Brown, the pair of co-captain Oksana Goretaya ’17 and Saskia Morgan ’16 has been deadly on offense, while Bruno’s defense has only allowed a total of 46 points on the season, an average of 9.2 per match. The squad has seen great improvements in athleticism this year, which has catapulted it to the top of the Ivy League. But in facing Navy, the Bears will encounter a new level of fitness and athleticism. Navy plays a more physical game than Bruno has seen so far this year.

“We are much fitter and (more) aggressive this year, but must be ready for something we’ve not seen before in terms of outright aggression,” Flores said in regards to Navy’s strength. Brown has prepared for this challenge by upping its training intensity and including “a lot of hard contact” in practice, Flores said.

Bruno’s most recent matchup against Navy ­— in the spring 2013 National Tournament’s Round of 16 — ended in defeat, after which Navy went on to advance to the Final Four. The last time the Bears beat Navy was a friendly match in fall 2010.

Both teams have a history of being competitive on the national stage. Navy most recently suffered a loss at Army’s hands in its big rivalry matchup. The Midshipmen also lost to powerhouses University of Virginia and the U.S. Air Force Academy this year, though they pulled out a commanding win over St. Mary’s College.

On Saturday, Brown will “have to come out hard to establish the pace for the first whistle and not let it be set for us,” Flores said.

The Bears will look to keep their winning streak alive, but overwhelming Navy is the team’s tallest order yet.


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