POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - Norwich University's top-ranked women's rugby squad clinched a spot in next spring's USA Rugby Division II national tournament with a 46-0 win over Vassar Nov. 13.
The Cadets' (14-1) win marked the third straight USA Rugby Division II Northeast Regional title.
Team Captain Katie Hathaway led the championship charge with a two try performance on the day and an All-American effort around the field.
Feeling some early nerves as the Cadets kicked off against Vassar on the Vassar home field, the first 15 minutes of the match were a back-and-forth battle. Norwich seemed to own the territory early on, but some great defense from Vassar prevented the go ahead try. Finally at the 18 minute mark, freshman center Vanessa Champagne hit a gap through the middle of the defense to open scoring in the game.
Vassar bounced back with some good play of their own and a yellow card against Norwich flanker Hannah Bushey in the 31st minute looked like it might be the break Vassar needed. But Hathaway and Co., would not back down with a player in the sin-bin. Hathaway rushed in for her opening try of the match five minutes following the yellow card. And just four minutes later, on the last play of the half, sophomore fullback Rose Bernheim upped the score to 17-0 with a try.
Returning to full strength, Bushey scored in the opening minutes of the second half after a great run and set-up pass from junior wing Adria Pickin. With the score at 22-0, Vassar played their best rugby of the day forcing Norwich into their own 22 for a number of scoring chances. Yet, the Norwich defense repelled the attack and turned it into an attack of their own. Champagne scored her second try of the match in the 24th minute and the try scoring gates seemed to open up at that point.
Pickin raced in for a try around the edge to give Norwich a 34-0 advantage. Next it was freshman scrumhalf Emily Oor, who was awarded a penalty try after receiving a high tackle on the goal line. The match was capped off by Hathaway who scored on the last play of the game.
Senior flanker Marlene Dwyer was named as the 2011 Northeast Championship MVP. Dwyer’s defensive performance was outstanding as she made tackle after tackle and was a presence at every breakdown.
With her 3 of 8 conversion kicking performance on the day, junior flyhalf Emily Baugus becomes the all-time leading scorer in Norwich rugby history with 311 points. Baugus passes former Team Captain and stand-out backfield runner Clarissa Wynn.
“We have had a phenomenal season and we’ve enjoyed every bit of work we’ve put in this year,” said NU head coach Austin Hall. “We’ve played with so much heart and these players deserve every bit of accolade and recognition for this championship season.”
Line-up: 1 – B. Annis; 2 - A. Amodeo (J. Zaweski); 3 – C. Aye; 4 – M. Weppner; 5 – F. Ryder; 6 – M. Dwyer; 7 – H. Bushey; 8 – K. Hathaway; 9 – E. Oor; 10 – E. Baugus; 11 – A. Vogt (A. Pickin); 12 – V. Champagne; 13 – J. Derocher; 14 – J. Clark; 15 – R. Bernheim
Tries: Champagne – 2, Hathaway – 2, Bernheim, Bushey, Oor, Pickin
Conversions: Baugus 3/8
Penalty Kicks: Baugus 0/1