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Women's Rugby Opens Spring Slate Against West Chester Saturday

The women's rugby team captured the Ivy Rugby Tournament title last fall (Gil Talbot).

The Storyline

In its first action of the 2014 spring season, the Harvard women's rugby team hosts West Chester in a Saturday matchup at Cumnock field. The game represents the first contest of the spring for the Golden Rams as well.

Fall Season Recap
It was a successful start for the Harvard rugby team in its first season as a varsity program, as the Crimson posted a 5-2 overall record in the fall and captured the Ivy League Rugby Tournament championship.

An opening 39-10 loss to a powerful Quinnipiac team was quickly balanced out by an 84-0 drubbing of conference foe Yale four days later. In its first road contest of the season, Harvard dropped a hard-fought battle with Dartmouth 10-5, but once again rallied for a 57-7 pounding of Brown. Harvard secured a spot in the Ivy Rugby Tournament with a 36-0 blanking of Princeton, its second shutout of the season to that point.

Back in Hanover, N.H., for the Ivy Rugby Tournament, the Crimson cruised to the final thanks to a decisive 31-5 win over Brown. The championship game pitted Harvard against top-seeded Dartmouth, the only league team to best the Crimson during the regular season. Harvard had the last laugh, however, keeping the Big Green from scoring a single point in a 29-0 victory to secure the league title.

About The Crimson
Harvard has benefitted from great senior leadership in its first season as a varsity program, as the team is led by senior captains Xanni Brown, Brandy Machado and Ali Haber. Brown is the team leader in points, compiling 12 total tries through the regular season, while Machado had eight to her credit heading into the Ivy tournament. Junior Aniebiet Abasi also proved to be a point-scorer for the Crimson, registering a try in all but one contest during the regular-season fall slate.

The Crimson will host four home games during its spring 2014 campaign, and will travel to Penn State for its lone road contest of the season.

Scouting The Rams
Like the Crimson, West Chester also put together a solid fall season, bringing a 5-2 overall record into the spring, including a 4-0 mark in conference play. West Chester started its fall season off with a 46-13 win over Kutztown, and after dropping a narrow 24-17 decision to Navy, hit the road for a solid 25-22 win over James Madison. A 34-21 road win over Pittsburgh followed, and Quinnipiac barely got the best of WCU in a 29-22 final a week later. The Rams wrapped up their fall season with wins over Temple (70-5) and Maryland (65-5).  

Club History
The women's rugby club, which began in 1982, has won two national championships (1998, 2011) in the club ranks. The move to varsity status is the results of "demonstrated commitment and sustainability of interest that is consistent with a varsity level program," according to The Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise.

A Bit About The Coaches
Sue Parker was named the first ever varsity head coach of Harvard women's rugby in the summer of 2013. Parker brings a host of national team and international competition experience to Cambridge and served as head coach for women's rugby at Navy from 2002-08 and 2011-13. She was the head coach of the Washington, D.C. Furies Women's Rugby Football Club during the summers of 2010-12 and, in 2009, was tabbed head coach of the USA Women's 7s Rugby National Team. She has also worked as an assistant coach for the USA Women's 7s Development Team, and the USA Women's U-23 15s squad from 2003-07.
   
A 1986 graduate of the University of Maryland, Parker was a member of the women's track & field team for four seasons. She also attended Virginia Law School, earning her degree in 1990.

Sue Whitwell and Kelly Seary '01 will serve as assistants on the team for the 2013-14 season. Whitwell, a former rugby player at the University of Illinois, comes to Cambridge after serving as the forwards coach for the Midwest under-23 team at the CWRFC. Seary returns to Harvard after helping the Crimson club team claim a national championship in 1998. She was also a four-time USA Rugby All-America selection.

Up Next
Harvard hosts American International College next Saturday in an 11:00 a.m. contest.