Although it appeared to be the better team on the field in its Sweet 16 game against Ohio State, costly turnovers held up the UCSB women’s rugby team, allowing the Buckeyes to escape with a 15-10 win in the opening round of the Division I women’s rugby playoffs.
“We seemed to control the flow of the game throughout the whole thing; their coach told us afterwards that he thought we were the better team,” senior flanker Phoebe Boone said. “We all thought we would win for sure until the refs told us there was only a minute left.”
Weather conditions favored Ohio State in the match. Completely unaccustomed to playing in the rain, the Gauchos found it difficult to hold onto the ball or to run at top speed once they found openings.
“The rain definitely hurt us, because we are a team with incredibly strong runners in the open field,” Boone said. “One of our strengths is our breakaway runs, and the field conditions made it really hard for our girls to do that.”
The game as a whole was marked by sloppy play on both sides. Possession of the ball went back and forth as both teams found it difficult to avoid turning the ball over.
“Playing in the rain is like playing with a greased watermelon,” Boone said. “The ball got really hard to hold on to, and it seemed like neither team could run more than two or three plays without turning it over.”
The Gauchos felt that the better team had lost on Saturday, and they got a chance to prove it on Sunday in a consolation game against Radcliffe. The game was delayed because of lightning flashes early in the first half, but once play resumed, UCSB dominated en route to a 19-8 win.
The Gauchos scored a try in the first few minutes and never lost the lead, winning their second game with their largest margin of victory of any game in the tournament.
“We knew we weren’t going to the Elite Eight or the Final Four, so Sunday was all about pride,” Boone said. “We wanted to come out and show people that we are a better team than the score indicated Saturday.”
Despite the playoff loss, the Gauchos are proud of their season and optimistic about the team’s future.
“This season was the most successful our club has ever been, going undefeated in regular season and doing well in the playoffs,” Boone said. “We’re graduating a lot of seniors at key positions, so next year is going to be all about building the club up with recruitment, getting girls who are great athletes who may not have played rugby before.”