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Rewards with friends: Close-knit Dartmouth women’s rugby returns to summit

  • Ava Procter catches the ball as she is lifted up by her teammates while working on a lineout during a Dartmouth rugby practice at Blackman Fields in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america, file — Alex Driehaus

  • Head coach Katie Dowty, center, talks to her players during a Dartmouth rugby practice at Blackman Fields in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america, file — Alex Driehaus

  • Dartmouth's women's rugby team celebrates their 28-18 win over Army in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association's national championship on Nov. 20, 2021. The Big Green's championship is part of an undefeated season and the team's second national title. (Mark Washburn photograph) Mark Washburn photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2021 8:45:57 PM
Modified: 11/24/2021 10:08:26 AM

Emily Henrich enjoyed Saturday night so much, she’s rewatched the game already and played through it multiple times in her head.

The senior helped Dartmouth win its second NIRA women’s rugby championship in four years with a 28-18 victory over Army in West Point, N.Y., on Saturday night.

Henrich scored the opening try less than four minutes into the match as the Big Green (9-0) completed their first perfect season in program history.

“I’ve just been thinking about how special it was to be able to win with my best friends,” Henrich said. “A lot of what I’ve been reflecting on is how important these relationships are to me, but also how incredible this team was — the skill everyone had, the willingness to try new things and push each other to be the best. It’s such an incredible group of women.”

After Henrich opened the scoring, fifth-year Idia Ihensekhien took over. Ihensekhien had a career year as a junior in 2019, when she was second on the team with nine tries, but saw limited playing time this year due to injuries.

She imposed her will on the Army defense at times, however. Ihensekhien’s first try, coupled with the second of four successful conversions by sophomore Abbey Savin, doubled the Big Green’s lead midway through the first half.

Army (7-3) got on the board with a penalty kick before halftime, but less than 10 minutes after the break, Ihensekhien intercepted a pass and saw nothing but open field in front of her, diving across the try line just before being tackled. Savin’s conversion made it a 21-3 Dartmouth lead.

Henrich and Ihensekhien played against each other in high school — Henrich grew up in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, and Ihensekhien was just across the Canadian border in Milton, Ontario.

Ihensekhien’s standout performance earned her the game MVP award.

“She’s been a force ever since high school,” Henrich said. “First someone who I dreaded playing against and now someone who I love playing with, because she’s such a physical, smart player. It showed in the game on Saturday everything she’s capable of.”

The Black Knights fought back in the last 20 minutes, scoring two tries in a three-minute span. They were unsuccessful on both conversion attempts, though, and three minutes later, fifth-year Lilly Durbin gave the Big Green some insurance with her team-leading 15th try of the season to make it 28-13. Army’s last try in the final two minutes was much too little, much too late.

Dartmouth was led by its veterans — the Big Green had 13 seniors and five fifth-years on their 40-player roster. Many of them were part of Dartmouth’s first title in 2018, but Henrich, a co-captain this season, said this championship was even more special. Saturday was the program’s second-ever night game and first since an NIRA quarterfinals loss to American International College in 2016.

Head coach Katie Dowty now has a 46-15 record since taking over when the program was elevated to varsity status in 2015.

“None of us will ever forget (this) scene,” Dowty told Dartmouth Athletics after the victory. “We knew Army would be fierce and the stands would be packed, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. This team deserved to show all they can do in front of a packed stadium and get such a hard-earned victory.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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