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Make theirs a double: Dartmouth women’s rugby repeats as NIRA champ

  • Dartmouth's Ariana Ramsey is tackled early in their NIRA women's rugby championship against Harvard on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com . Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Dartmouth's Kristin Bitter scores first for the Big Green with a kick against Harvard in the NIRA women's rugby championship on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com .

  • Dartmouth's Seven Sassano, right, and Lauren Ferridge push to move the ball away from Harvard's end during the NIRA women's rugby championship on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com . valley news — Geoff Hansen

  • Dartmouth women's rugby team heads out onto the field to defend their national title against Harvard during the NIRA women's rugby championship on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com .

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2022 10:05:18 PM
Modified: 11/19/2022 10:05:09 PM

HANOVER — Free hot chocolate was available near the Burnham Field concession stand during Saturday’s National Intercollegiate Rugby Association Division I final between Dartmouth College and Harvard.

The Big Green’s Ariana Ramsey heated up the pitch all by herself.

A fifth-year senior wing from the Philadelphia suburbs, Ramsey not only scored twice but caused a raucous crowd of more than 3,000 to leap to its collective feet every time she embarked on a run.

Ramsey, a participant in last year’s Tokyo Olympics and a strong candidate to again don the red, white and blue in 2024, drew low, expectant roars whenever she received the ball and led Dartmouth to a 15-10 victory over its archrival.

“Ariana’s like a bolt of lightning,” said Katie Dowty, whose program also won its nine-team division last season and in 2018, giving it three crowns during the last four seasons in which the title has been contested. “She has the opportunity to score every time she touches the ball.

“It’s just so great to see her out there smiling and playing a full 80 minutes and at full strength.”

Ramsey scored a try against Harvard when Dartmouth won its first NIRA title in 2018. The Crimson earned revenge during the teams’ semifinal meeting a year later and COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 campaign, but Ramsey made the U.S. team for the Olympics, which features the sport’s seven-a-side version.

It was in that competition that Ramsey tore a knee ligament, an injury that kept her out of action until last month. Saturday showed for sure that she hasn’t lost a step, with No. 14 creating speedy magic during her two scoring runs.

A Kristin Bitter boot gave Dartmouth a 3-0 lead during the 17th minute, but Harvard answered when a minute of clustered, physical play along the try line resulted in Charlotte Gilmour lunging across the stripe. The conversion kick was wide, leaving the Crimson ahead, 5-3, after 22 minutes.

Five minutes later, Ramsay received a pass near the right sideline and absolutely exploded up the field. She split a pair of defenders with her first few steps, outran another and sailed past a fourth opponent who had what initially appeared to be a good tackling angle. Bitter’s subsequent kick was good for a 10-5 advantage.

Ramsey struck again five minutes before intermission, sprinting up the right side with a mind-boggling combination of pure speed and elusiveness for a 15-5 lead. It’s hard to imagine Dartmouth’s football team, which concluded its season earlier in the afternoon, has many players who could match the rugby star’s moves.

“Before I get the ball, I identify the space and then I hit it immediately,” said Ramsey, adding that she knew she’d score upon beginning both runs. “I have to wait and be patient and trust that they’ll get the ball to me.”

Harvard’s Cameron Fields scored during the 69th minute to pull her team within 15-10, but this was Dartmouth’s night as it won its 18th consecutive game. Delirious fans blew horns, banged a gong and stomped their feet hard enough to make the aluminum bleachers shake.

Harvard is “our biggest rival and the best team we play in our league, so it’s huge to beat them,” Ramsey said upon concluding a postgame interview on the ESPN+ international streaming video feed. “I’m happy and excited. I knew we were going to put our all into this game and it showed.”

Said Dowty: “I’m really proud of the girls for seeing it through when things got tight and we were under pressure. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.”

Notes: Who was that gentleman in the extravagent fur coat waving a Harvard banner? It was New York millionaire Roberto Mignone, whose daughter, Catherine, plays for the Crimson. Harvard’s rugby field is named for the 1992 Harvard graduate, who competed for the school’s club team as an undergraduate. … Six Harvard players kneeled for the national anthem. None of Dartmouth’s players did so. … Dowty, Dartmouth’s only head coach since the program went varsity in 2015, is a 2006 Harvard graduate. … The name of Big Green player Seven Sassano recalls the moniker of 1980s Dartmouth women’s hockey player 9 Sanders, an Alaskan who has a brother named 7. … Dartmouth’s roster features three foreign players, from England, Canada and Indonesia. Harvard’s roster has eight foreign nationals from the likes of Canada, Hong Kong, Scotland and Israel. … Queens University from Charlotte, N.C., defeated Davenport University of Caledonia Township, Mich., 34-27, in the Division II title game. Bowdoin beat the University of New England, 29-0, in the Division III championship.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.


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