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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac, Dartmouth vie for title bid in semifinal rematch

Bobcat rugby eyes first return to NIRA finals since 2017
Jack Muscatello
Quinnipiac graduate student forward Gracie Cartwright braces for a tackle during the Bobcat’s home opener against Harvard on Sept. 2.

The throes of autumn are upon New England. Temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling and Quinnipiac rugby (5-2) is embarking on yet another journey to Hanover, New Hampshire, this week to tackle Dartmouth (5-2) in the 2023 NIRA semifinals.

Quinnipiac started the season on rocky footing, being floored by contenders Harvard and Dartmouth.

But in a fashion similar to last season, Quinnipiac pulled out win after win during October. During a perfect 3-0 month, the Bobcats scored over 50 points in two straight games against AIC and Mount St. Mary’s. The squad has proven they can blow out opponents and pull out wins in tough games and muddy fields.

Quinnipiac often succeeds during October, but its 5-2 record is something to note. The last time Quinnipiac entered November with two or less losses was 2017 – the year the Bobcats finished their three-peat championship run.

And Quinnipiac has to thank its players for its success.

The Bobcats have enjoyed consistently fantastic play from senior fullback phenom Kat Storey. Be it on offense with her electric runs from more than halfway across the field or on defense through her hard hits, Storey was a catalyst through which Quinnipiac ran through October.

“She’s relentless in her pursuit of winning, but winning together,” head coach Becky Carlson said. “She loves it when her teammates are succeeding and you can see that in her energy out in the field. When the team’s on, she’s on.”

Storey isn’t the only hero on the squad though. Fellow seniors, prop Hannah Pfersch and second row Anna Van Dyk, have also been excellent this season by way of their stout defense and efficient tackling. Players like Storey have had high praise for Van Dyk and how her play helps energize the team even more.

“Every time I go out on the field I’m grateful to be on a team and to be able to play by her side,” Storey said. “It’s like every single time you see her go it’s just like she’s going through someone. You just know.”

Quinnipiac’s attitude of running through people no matter what has carried the Bobcats back to this year’s NIRA semi finals, but Dartmouth is still a formidable opponent.

The Big Green may not be the perfect team that won 20 straight games from 2021-2023 by way of explosive offense and a defense that rivaled the Great Wall of China, but it has a variety of scorers, highlighted by juniors, wing Sadie Schier and lock Cassie Depner.

Dartmouth’s defense has been incredible during the 2023 season. The Big Green have only allowed 30-plus points once – a Oct. 7 loss to Lindenwood – and have held opponents’ average to 13 points per game.

None of this matters for Carlson, who doesn’t look at her opponents’ records.

“We recognize from our schedule as a whole that playing Harvard and Dartmouth (earlier) was gonna prepare us for this moment,” Carlson said.

Both squads are 5-2, but Quinnipiac is looking for its first win over Dartmouth since finishing its three-peat run in 2017. On the flipside, Big Green are clamoring for a three-peat of their own, having won in 2021 and 2022.

In its nine-game all-time matchup, Quinnipiac has not been very successful against Dartmouth, only winning two of its first three contests and nothing more. The last four losses to Big Green came by way of overpowering offense and iron defense. The Bobcats scored more than 10 points during their losing streak just once in a 47-14 defeat in the NIRA semifinals last year. Quinnipiac on average has allowed 46 points during its six-game losing streak to the Big Green.

If there’s any time for fortunes to change and for momentum to keep swinging for the Bobcats, it’s this year. Quinnipiac and Dartmouth will face off in a showdown for a chance at the Bobcats’ fourth NIRA title on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon on ESPN+.

The winner is likely to face the juggernaut that is Harvard (7-0) in the NIRA Championship on Nov. 18.

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Jack Muscatello
Jack Muscatello, Digital Managing Editor

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