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Women’s rugby “rides high” after third place finish in Ivy 7s tournament

Bears beats Harvard for first time in nine years, go 3–1 in competition

<p>The Bears flipped the script to end Harvard’s 20-game win streak, upsetting the Crimson 12-7.</p><p>Courtesy of Brown Athletics</p>

The Bears flipped the script to end Harvard’s 20-game win streak, upsetting the Crimson 12-7.

Courtesy of Brown Athletics

As the rest of campus congregated on the Main Green on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the women’s rugby team (16-8, 3-3 Ivy) traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to compete in the annual Ivy 7s tournament. Surpassing last year’s 1-2 showing, the team went 3-1, taking home bronze after beating Princeton 36-5 in the third-place playoff match. 

“The team was stoked,” Morgan Cunningham ’24 wrote in a message to The Herald. “We were riding high on the way home with both Princeton wins and the Harvard win. It’s always exciting to win a plate.” 

In their first matchup of the day, the Bears were pitted against division rival Harvard (21-8, 5-2), who has dominated Bruno for the last nine years. Less than two weeks earlier, Harvard handed Brown their latest loss in the final game of the Crimson 7s tournament. Now, eyeing the chance to finally pay Harvard back, the Bears flipped the script to end Harvard’s 20-game win streak. The Bears upset Harvard 12-7. 

“The opening match against Harvard was probably the most jaw-dropping game of the day,” Nikki Lynch ’25 wrote in a message to The Herald. “Coming in as underdogs, our goal was to snap Harvard’s win streak … We proved to Harvard that we came to play and came prepared.”

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“We knew from our last match against the Crimson that in order to win, we had to back ourselves until the very end,” Cunningham added. “We studied a lot of film together and practiced relentless defense throughout the week … I am beyond proud of our performance in that game and it might be my favorite moment ever in my rugby career.”

Less than one minute into the contest, Kate Muldoon ’26 stormed past a stumped Harvard defense to claim an early 5-0 lead. But the advantage did not last: The Bears found themselves trailing 7-5 after a 95-meter run by the Crimson’s Cameron Fields.

Facing the possibility of being handed yet another loss by Harvard, the Bears rallied. As the last minute of the half wound down, Muldoon passed the ball to Cunningham. With two defenders closing in on her from either side, Cunningham split the difference, cutting in between her pursuers before erupting for a 60-meter run to score. Her efforts sealed the deal for Bruno, and the Crimson were unable to overcome their 12–7 deficit for the remainder of the contest. 

“Kate Muldoon and Morgan Cunningham were incredible today,” Head Coach Rosalind Chou said after the Bears’ “historic win over Harvard … The team was locked in and executed the game plan almost flawlessly.”

But though the early stretches of the tournament provided landmark achievements for the Bears, their hopes were dashed in the second game when they faced Dartmouth. Coming out to a hot start, the Big Green were able to score early, and pushed their advantage to 12-0 by half. Unable to contest them, the Bears gave up another two tries before the game ended, and ultimately lost 24-0. 

Yet even in the face of a blow out, the Bears did not give up. Entering their third matchup of the day, Brown attacked Princeton with renewed vigor. Making all the difference in the first half was Brown’s ferocious defensive pursuit. Three minutes in, the Bears pushed Princeton into their own 5-meter line. As the Tigers desperately tried to escape their own try zone and move forward, Akilah Cathey ’25 poached the ball from Princeton’s fingertips. She lunged forward, crossing the try line and securing an early 5-0 lead.

With 15 seconds left in the first, the Bears launched another attack down the left flank. Hoping to fend off a late score, Princeton’s defense swarmed for the stop. In an excellent pass, Cunningham pivoted the ball out to Lynch who sprinted down the right side of the field as a helpless Tigers defense watched from the opposite edge. When the ref called halftime, the Bears were up 12-0. Once play resumed, both teams traded scores and Bruno claimed a 17-7 victory.  

“We wish to have been playing for the cup final,” wrote Lynch as the team advanced to the third-place playoff match, facing off against Princeton once more. But “our team has always been extremely quick to learn from mistakes, which is why every tournament, our team looks better and better.”

Propelled by the sweet taste of their earlier victory, the Bears kept the momentum going, steamrolling the Tigers. In the first minute of the contest, Cunningham corralled the ball just outside of Princeton’s 22-meter line. After juking one defender out of her shoes, Cunningham split the last two Tigers and rushed forward for the first try of the game. 

But just a minute later, Princeton’s Bringham took the ball the length of the field to equalize the score. Determined not to leave the half empty-handed, the Bears went on a last-minute offensive attack. Catching the ball deep within her own territory, Lily Nowak ’27 evaded shoestring tackles in a punishing 80-meter sprint to the try zone that propelled Bruno to a 10-5 halftime lead. 

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In the second half, Brown’s offense took off. Lynch started the onslaught, leaving the Princeton defense in the dust as she secured a 17-5 lead. Minutes later, a four-pass series traversed the ball from the right sideline all the way to the left flank where — after splitting two Princeton defenders — Cunningham ran uncontested into the try zone. 

Even up 22–5, the Bears did not relent. After Jania Vandevoorde ’25 intercepted an errant Princeton pass, Lynch capitalized, pushing the advantage to 27-5. With double zeros on the clock, Olivia Baptiste ’26 slipped through the hands of a defender to cement the 36-5 victory and secure a bronze medal. 

The Bears now look ahead to the Collegiate Rugby Championship National 7s tournament in Washington, D.C. on April 27. Last year, the Bears won it all, taking home a national championship. 

“Given our success last year, there is a good bit of pressure to win for sure,” Cunningham wrote. “However, I think we are even more dialed in than last year and hungry to win even more.” 

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“We've really been working on improving team culture, and that was especially evident with the closeness and family feeling of the team at Ivys. Our plan is to carry this all the way to another national championship,” she added.


Lydell Dyer

Lydell Dyer is a Senior Staff Writer for the sports section. A sophomore hailing from Bonn, Germany, Lydell is studying nonfiction English and political science, and if he's not off "making words sound pretty," you can find him lifting heavy circles at the Nelson.



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