Yale sits atop the Ivy Club standings, but the team has faced plenty of resistance during its 3-0 fall thus far. The Bulldogs outscored two opponents by one try each (with conversions pushing the point differential), and the team expects an equal amount of pressure in round two.
Yale began to recenter itself in fall 2015, when new head coach Craig Wilson relocated from Hong Kong, where he was involved with the national U14-U20 age grade teams, to New Haven, Conn. He joined a women’s program that hadn’t won an Ivy 15s game in three years.
“Upon arrival at Yale, it was clear that the team, for all their endeavors, lacked direction and had low numbers,” Wilson recalled those early days. “I prioritized creating a compelling and attractive vision for the players to work towards. We shifted the mindset to focusing on the details we could control, such as the importance of hard work, increasing fitness levels and having fun. On top of that, I developed their rugby IQ by introducing tactical play supported with using video analysis and increasing the amount of rugby the team watched.”
A foundation had been re-established, and Yale went 5-2 that season to win the Ivy Club division.
This year's team is of modest size - 24 registered players - but it's the youth of the squad that draws interest. Fourteen are rookies and four players are in their second season of rugby.
“The new players have certainly added to our overall athleticism, which is a core focus of the program,” Wilson indicated. “We unfortunately lost both our captains to injury in the first game of the season, but this has created an opportunity for the other players to step up and lead. I am excited to see the progress of this group, which has huge potential.”
The team started the fall with a 74-15 win over Columbia, followed by a 36-25 victory over Cornell, and then defeated Penn 38-27 last weekend. Penn sits in second place thanks to a 26-17 season-opening win over Cornell.
“Penn are well coached and have some talented players,” Wilson reflected on the team’s latest outing. “I believe our willingness to keep working hard to the final whistle was the difference in a very close game. We will have to go up another level if we are going to beat them again, especially away from home.”
Genevieve Simmons leads all points scorers with 36 on four tries and eight conversions, while Elisia Ceballo-Countryman is close behind with 28 (4T, 4C). Ann Chia, Debbie Dada and Veronica Rodriguez have contributed three tries apiece this season, and Fatemeh Mojarradi and Sophie Freeman have crossed the try line twice each.
Columbia forfeited this weekend's match, and so Yale will resume play on Oct. 14 against the traditionally tough Cornell. Yale will then face Penn on Oct. 28 to end the season, and final standings will name league champion. A challenge match will then ensue between the Ivy Club champion and fourth-place team in the Ivy League (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton) for promotion/relegation in fall 2018. Additionally, a new initiative will see the Ivy Club champion compete in the USA Rugby DII playoffs this fall.
News courtesy of www.therugbybreakdown.com