Ask any student-athlete at Wellesley, and they will tell you that the rivalry between women’s colleges runs deep. Not only do matchups against fellow all-women’s colleges provide an opportunity for bragging rights, but also, over the years, national recognition. At Wellesley, the chance to face Mount Holyoke College is consistently a marquee event across the athletic department.
Wellesley athletic teams will typically face-off against Mount Holyoke around 15 times per year. For some teams, a match against Mount Holyoke comes as a part of the annual Seven Sisters tournament for their sport. For other teams, the Mount Holyoke matchup can equal a weighted NEWMAC conference contest.
At Wellesley, the rivalry is ingrained throughout the athletes, coaches and administration. Mount Holyoke graduates Elaine Harvey ’10 and Tessa Spillane ’95 were both inspired by their women’s college education and pursued career opportunities in the Wellesley Athletic Department in order to continue the robustness of the women’s college experience. Harvey, Wellesley’s Assistant Athletic Director of Development and Communications, played soccer at Mount Holyoke and stills cherishes the rivalry between her alma mater and employer.
Harvey explains that when Wellesley plays Mount Holyoke, “everybody knows that this is going to be a clash and there is going to be fireworks and that adds an element of excitement.” Although she now roots solely for Wellesley, she admits that she always pays close attention to the matchups between the schools across sports and uses Wellesley’s victories as an opportunity to reconnect with, and trash-talk, her Mount Holyoke friends.
“It’s easy to rally around winning and that excitement, so I think on both campuses, it’s not just the athletic department, but other people start to notice that this is a big deal and the teams themselves tell their roommates and their friends ‘you’ve got to get here, you don’t want to miss this,’ so I think that is a perfect storm [for a rivalry],” Harvey said.
The rivalry between the Mount Holyoke and Wellesley field hockey teams has become a highlight for both schools. The past nine consecutive games between the two teams have been decided by one goal, while seven of the last eight games have ended after overtime play. The Blue and the Lyons field have faced off in conference elimination games for five consecutive years. Wellesley won three of the matchups, but in the last two years, Mount Holyoke has eliminated
Wellesley from NEWMAC conference play. Anissa Sridhar ’16 experienced the Wellesley-Mount Holyoke rivalry in full force during her four years as a member of the Wellesley field hockey team.
“As a player, our games against Mount Holyoke were always ones I looked forward to on the schedule. It always felt that we were playing for something greater than a win, that we were playing for the pride of our school and for teams that came before us. As an alum, I feel like I’m more invested when it comes to games against Mount Holyoke and it makes me want to be on the field again. I think it just proves the significance of the rivalry and how it transcends past the field,” she stated.
This week the Wellesley Lacrosse team gears up to take on Mount Holyoke this Saturday April 22, 2017 for the first time this season, and, of course, the game means something a little extra to the two schools.
Last year the matchup went to overtime with Wellesley eventually winning 12-11 after Chesley Hooker ’16 scored the winning goal. Senior Nikki Sharkin, a member of both the lacrosse and field hockey teams, reflects on the upcoming matchup against the Lyons,
“Something about us both being all women’sdefinitely stirs up a rivalry in itself and it’s always a really tough game.”
The Mount Holyoke lacrosse team is struggling this season with a current record of 3-10. While the Blue are currently having a successful season with record of 7-5, Sharkin feels confident that it will be an intense game, commenting, ”No matter how the rest of the season is going, both teams play with a lot of heart and never give up.”
Regardless of sport, both sides agree that there is something deeper about the rivalry beyond the score of the games. In fact, athletes, coaches and administrators alike all agree that it’s the similarities and differences between the two schools that fuel the rivalry the most. “If you don’t go to Wellesley or Mount Holyoke, to the outside eye, they’re the same. People are like ‘Oh yeah it’s an all-women’s college,’ but they each have their own distinct personalities so when you’re in it, whether you’re at Mount Holyoke or Wellesley, you know the differences… it’s almost like we know something that no one else knows,” Harvey stated.
As an administrator, Harvey has a unique perspective on the rivalry and can better support coaches and athletes because she understands where they are coming from.
However, after having graduated from a women’s college, she knows that the bond between the school’s student-athletes is truly unique. Student-athletes at women’s colleges are able to best understand each other’s college experiences. “They tell the same story. It’s about the opportunities that these institutions provide for women that you can’t get anywhere else,” Harvey said.
Wellesley’s Head Crew Coach, Tessa Spillane, has also seen the similarities in many of the traditions in which Wellesley and Mount Holyoke take part. The founding members of both Wellesley and Mount Holyoke shared many of the same visions and resources, so customs such as class colors and school songs are significant on both campuses. Spillane believes the rivalry helps flush out who is the best sister out of the sister schools. “We’re all so similar yet the personalities of the campuses are different,” Spillane reasoned.She followed that up by confidently stating, “We’re definitely the better sister now.”
As Wellesley Lacrosse prepares to take on Mount Holyoke this weekend and spring teams look ahead to Seven Sisters and NEWMAC conference games, the rivalry between the two sister schools continues to gather steam. Through the fierce competition between Wellesley and Mount Holyoke athletics each year, students at both schools are reminded of their respective school’s similarities while still relishing in the differences that makes each institution unique.
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at email@example.com or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.