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Rugby’s spotless season ends with playoff defeat

After rolling Navy, women's rugby falls to Quinnipiac in Round of 8 for first loss since jump to varsity

The women’s rugby players began their season as a first-time varsity squad, crossing their fingers that they could beat Harvard in their opener and earn a place in history as the winners of the first Ivy varsity rugby match. They topped the Crimson and have not looked back since, sprinting to the head of the Ivy League with an undefeated regular season.

But after being crowned conference champions, the Bears reached the end of their season this weekend, faltering in the Round of 8 in the national American College Rugby Association tournament. Bruno defeated Navy in the Round of 16 Saturday before losing to a tough Quinnipiac squad Sunday.

Despite the season-ending loss, this year’s team has earned its place in rugby history and reasserted its position at the forefront of the national collegiate rugby scene.

“No one expected us to make it this far in our first varsity season,” said co-captain Oksana Goretaya ’17. “The most important and impressive thing we did this weekend was that we played as a team. We’ve been playing that way this entire season, and that’s why we got this far.”


Saturday: Brown 41, Navy 7

The Bears entered ACRA Regionals seeded first, facing the Midshipmen (1-5) on a frigid Saturday in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was the second time this season that the teams had faced off, and for the second time this season, Bruno notched a 34-point victory over Navy, etching into the Midshipmen’s memory a consistent and dominant performance. A strong offensive showing and solid defensive effort combined to extend Brown’s perfect season to nine games.

“Our momentum from winning Ivies kept us focused on ACRAs,” said Amber Reano ’16. “We knew we would be facing our toughest competition at ACRAs and we had to take it one game at a time.”

Reano  scored first to put the Bears on the board, giving them an early 5-0 lead. After a few minutes of messy play, Bruno regained possession and Natalie Klotz ’14.5 pushed through with another try to extend Brown’s lead to 10.

Navy responded with offensive pressure, but the Bears were quick and effective on defense. They regained possession and executed their plays to gain a 17-0 lead — Goretaya carried the try, and Sofia Rudin ’17 converted for two extra points. Bruno continued to pressure Navy’s offense, dominating the scrum and tackling with convincing force.

Elisha Miles ’15 closed out the half with another try, and Rudin converted to put the Bears up 24-0 at the break.

Bruno entered the second half down a player after May Siu ’15 committed a penalty at the end of the first. The team faltered briefly, allowing the Midshipmen to hold possession, but Bruno refused to let Navy get on the board. The Bears held off the Midshipmen long enough to regain possession, and the ball fell into the hands of Kiki Morgan ’16, who carried it for a try. Rudin successfully converted to put Bruno up 31-0.

Morgan would not stay still for long, following up with another try to extend Brown’s lead to 36. Minutes later, she scored once more to complete a hat trick and put Brown up 41-0. Bruno would not score again, but gave subs some playing time on the national stage. Navy finally got on the board in garbage time, but the game ended in a resounding 41-7 Brown victory.


Sunday: Quinnipiac 46, Brown 20

With the win over Navy, the Bears advanced to the Round of 8 to take on Quinnipiac (7-3), who had defeated Army 46-17 in the Round of 16. The Bears and Bobcats had never met, and their first contest opened amid snow flurries.

Morgan continued her scoring tradition early, vaulting the Bears to a 5-0 lead. But the Bobcats responded with a try and a conversion to take a two-point lead. This marked the first time since the season opener that the Bears had trailed in a game. But Bruno responded aggressively, and the game became very physical.

After Goretaya left the field with a knee injury, the Bears continued to fight what was certainly the toughest battle of the season. But Quinnipiac forced its way to another score, extending its lead to 14-5.

The Bears had an answer: Reano took possession, scoring a try with help from Miles and narrowing the score to 14-10 at half.

“During both games we zoned in on the positives and utilized tactics that were working for us,” Reano said. “We took advantage of every opportunity to the best of our abilities. Overall, we stayed mentally strong, which is what allowed us to keep on fighting back and never giving up.”

Quinnipiac had the first say in the second half, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The Bobcats returned to their scoring ways, pulling away from the Bears with a nine-point lead. But Bruno responded by capitalizing on a penalty to score. Though the team failed to convert, the score was within four points once again.

The Bears continued this pattern of comebacks, but never closed that four-point margin. Quinnipiac stretched the lead to 24-15 before Klotz responded for Bruno to reduce the lead to 24-20.

Bruno continued pressuring the Bobcats, holding back their offense for stretches at a time. But Quinnipiac found gaps and struck twice more to stretch its lead to 16. Momentum had swung in favor of the Bobcats, as they scored twice more to cement the final score at 46-20, which did not completely reflect how close the game was.

“We made some mistakes that cost us some points, but kept fighting until the end,” Goretaya said. “We had so much support from alums, parents, friends, coaches and injured players. You could literally feel the love on the field. Looking forward now, we have things to work on, but I couldn’t be prouder of what this team has accomplished.”


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