This weekend marked the first official Ivy League season for the women, and Princeton was happy to inaugurate it with a 60-0 win over visiting Yale.
Princeton controlled every aspect of the game, and the healthy lead allowed head coach Emil Signes to work in 27 players. Seven of those players were rookies, and they contributed nicely to the underclassmen’s performance – of the eight tries scores, only two came from a senior.
“We still have half a dozen rookies to get medically cleared,” Signes said of his burgeoning roster. “We also picked up two varsity athletes – one from softball, the other from golf – and they looked good. We have a good amount of experienced players, and all but three from the 7s squad that played at the CRC Championship are here. That experience has been very helpful; it exposes player to wide-open spaces and that translates to good decision-making.”
Good decision-making skills came in handy on Saturday, as Princeton spent the majority of time on offense. Under the leadership of captains Lauren Rhode and Janet Thomassen, Princeton ran in 10 tries: three from fullback Morgan Arthur, and one apiece from prop Abby Hammer, lock Mireille Pardon, flanker Janet Thomassen, No. 8 Dot Mittow, center Nida Leeuwenburgh and wings Kristy Giandomenico and Liz O'Grady. Rhode converted five of the 10 tries for 10 points.
“We played good defense when we had to,” Signes said, “but we had the ball most of the time. … [As we prepare for Harvard this weekend] We’re going to focus on defense and make sure we’re ready to play. Our offense is good, and our defense might be good, too – we just have no way to tell yet.”
Yale was handicapped before it even took the pitch. The team travelled with 14 players and is having some obvious numbers issues. Signes considered lending Yale some players, but the same scenario occurred last year, and Yale won with only 14 players.
“I’m more concerned about Yale's numbers this season than pleased with our big victory,” Signes said. “It's imperative that Ivy Rugby be stocked with strong teams.”
And for the most part, it is. Brown is the team to beat, and Radcliffe and Dartmouth will give Princeton the competition it needs to build toward playoffs. But Signes sees the bigger picture of the new league.
“It’s not better or worse,” Signes said of the level of competition compared to last year. “It’s more natural. Our alumni are happy with it. But we have back-to-back five- and six-hour trips, and that’s a haul. Overall it’s hard to say how it’ll work until we do it for a year.”
In addition to playing in this new league, Princeton et al will compete in an Ivy League 7s Championship at the end of the 15s season. Princeton will have a slight advantage over all of the teams, except Brown, which also participated in the CRC 7s Championship this June. But for now, it’s all 15s all the way.
“I haven’t even thought about it, to be honest,” Signes said. “As much as I would like to [integrate 7s training into practice], we have to keep the blinders on. We’re keeping our focus up and the emotional level of games high.”
In other Ivy League news, Radcliffe defeated Columbia 34-0, and Brown toppled Dartmouth 41-12.