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Dartmouth Combines Experience and New Faces in 5-0 Run

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Dartmouth Combines Experience and New Faces in 5-0 Run

Dartmouth combines talent with depth. Photo Dartmouth Athletics.

The biggest women's college game so far this fall has to be Harvard at Dartmouth Saturday in Hanover, NH.

Harvard is the defending National Intercollegiate Rugby Association champion, having won the title in 2019 (and it wasn't contested in 2020).

The Crimson leads NIRA currently with a 5-0 record, but the lead is actually only 14 points in the points difference column, because, also 5-0 is Dartmouth.

Harvard Builds on Strong Start in NIRA

Under Head Coach Katie Dowty Dartmouth brings an enormous amount of experience, especially in the backline. Capped Eagle Emily Henrich, who won the MA Sorensen Award as the top women's player in college rugby when she was a freshman, and captained one of the teams in the USA's Stars vs Stripes game, is back with Dartmouth and being a gamechanger in all aspects. Wing Ariana Ramsey played in the Olympics (although we haven't seen much of here). Lilly Durbin was capped in 7s—she's back after some major injury problems.

But it's more than that. Junior flyhalf Kristin Bitter has been excellent with the boot and setting up teammates, Sophia Haley is inspirational at the back of the scrum, Abby Savin has been a brilliant goalkicker, and Sophie Ragg has been dangeorus in the backline, too.

Dowty, however, is probably most pleased with the breakout season of No. 8 Idia Ihensekhien, who has emerged as an imposing ballcarrier as well as defender, the emergence of freshman Asialeata Meni at hooker, and the return of Durbin.

A USA 7s prospect as a freshman, Durbin missed both her sophomore and junior seasons due to injury, and then COVID shut down last year. Back for her 5th year, she finally gets to play. 

"Lilly hasn't played in three years," said Dowty. "It's been really hard for her and I am just so happy to see her back playing. And to see her play so well is even  better."

Flankers Nyah Cordero and Ava Procter have also emerged as central pieces to Dartmouth's defensive effort, and, said Dowty, "it's been really fun to watch."

The influx of capable sophomores and freshmen indicate the future will be bright for Dartmouth, but in the end at the heart of it all are those experienced heads of Henrich, Durbin, and Ihensekhien who, between the three of them, have scored 19 tries in five games. Henrich also leads the team—by a mile— with 11 assists.

But it will take more than that to beat Dartmouth.

"We will be tested and we need to be physical," said Dowty. "And the good thing is this is the most physical team I have had in my time here at Dartmouth. "We've got a really good group of really strong players, and they want to play for each other."

It's senior day at Dartmouth. Kickoff at Brophy Field is 11AM ET, and it will be shown live on the ESPN+ streaming service.