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Outside center Ekaterina R. Kononov ’12 is tackled during the women’s rugby regional finals match against Bentley University out on Briggs Field Saturday afternoon. The Engineers lost 15-28.
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In the New England regional finals this past Saturday, the MIT Women’s Rugby team fell to Bentley 29-15 in 80 minutes of play. As a result, they have ended their run in the playoffs and will be unable to defend their national title this year.

The Engineers seemed to control the first half, keeping the ball on Bentley’s half of the field and entering halftime with an 8-5 lead. Bentley scored a try in the first few minutes, but MIT responded with an exciting breakaway that brought the ball down to within yards of the end zone and resulted in a try, tying the score. The two teams seemed almost equally matched, the only other points from a free kick by MIT. According to Sarah Ritter ’14, the Engineers knew what they were facing — “Coach says it’s like playing against ourselves.”

Although MIT kept the ball on the offensive side throughout the first half, Bentley came back strong in the last 40 minutes. Right after halftime Bentley brought the ball down the field and even though MIT was able to hold them at the line for several minutes, they finally broke through and scored a try, giving them a lead of 10-8. Since the scoring team retains possesion after it scores, Bentley immediately tried to bring it back for another try, but MIT responded by taking the ball back down into scoring position. The match continued in this back-and-forth field position battle, although Bentley seemed to control the scoring, running in for three more tries and two conversions. MIT was, demoralizingly, unable to score.

The Engineers may have been run-down mentally, but they never stopped trying, and even scored a try and a conversion in the final minutes of the game to finish off with a score of 15-29. As this was the New England Regional Championship game, the team is now out of the playoffs and will not advance to the national championship. The team will be losing their head coach, Brandon Sparks, assistant coach, Teagan Thibodeau, and 11 seniors, 9 of which are starting players, after this year. The team has been giving the underclassmen playing time, so should be well prepared with a strong team for next season. Next year they will respond to this disappointing loss with even more intensity and fervor to take back the national title.