Women's Rugby Hosts Yale in Ivy League Opener

Harvard will open its Ivy schedule Saturday against the Bulldogs (Harvard Athletic Communications).

Highlights: Women's Rugby vs. Quinnipiac

The Storyline
In its first Ivy League matchup since becoming a varsity program, the Harvard women's rugby team welcomes archrival Yale to Cumnock Field for an Ivy Rugby Conference showdown.  

Last Time Out
In its first-ever contest as a varsity program, the Harvard women's rugby team dropped a 39-10 decision to Quinnipiac Tuesday night on Cumnock Field. The Crimson held the possession advantage for much of the first half, but two quick strikes from the Bobcats left Harvard in a 12-0 hole at the half. Aniebiet Abasi notched the first try of the season for Harvard early in the second half, scooping up a Quinnipiac clearing kick and racing around the left end for the score. Senior captain Xanni Brown plunged in from short range for Harvard's second try of the game, but a poised Quinnipiac team collected numerous tries in the second half en route to the 39-10 win.
Last Season In The Ivy League
The Crimson and Bulldogs had comparable Ivy League seasons in 2012, with Harvard finishing third in the Green Division and Yale placing second in the White Division.

366 days ago, the Crimson and Bulldogs met for a morning match at the Yale Rugby Pitch and the Crimson emerged victorious by a 22-7 final. The game proved to be Yale's only Ivy loss of the season.

Going Varsity
Women's rugby is the 21st varsity sport for women and 42nd varsity sport overall at Harvard making Harvard the nation's leader in both areas.

Harvard is the first Ivy League institution to sponsor a varsity rugby program and continues to lead the field with its long tradition of supporting athletics for women. This tradition began in the 19th century when Radcliffe College, its sister school, offered tennis and basketball teams. In 1923, Radcliffe competed in the country's first intercollegiate swimming meet.

Division I women's rugby is currently classified as a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) emerging sport. This designation is used to encourage growth of opportunity at the intercollegiate level in these sports. According to USA Rugby, growth of the sport has increased exponentially at the high school and intercollegiate level and currently there are over 300 collegiate women's rugby clubs. The sport of rugby also returns to the Olympics in 2016 after being recognized in four previous Games.

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
The Crimson hits the road for the first time this season when it takes on Dartmouth next Saturday in a noon game.