WPL Player of the Month: Yeja Dunn

Beantown stand out recognized for impressive September.

The season after a Women's Rugby World Cup is one marked by moving parts. Who's retiring? Who's switching focus to 7s? Who's pushing for the next class of Eagles? The Women's Premier League (WPL) is one place where some of those questions are fielded, and the league's September Player of the Month, Beantown's Yeja Dunn, might be one of those answers.

The 23-year-old might be new to the WPL, but Dunn is already a familiar name. The Apple Valley, Calif., native picked up rugby at Dartmouth College in fall 2012, when it was still a Division I club program, and spent three years under longtime coach Debra Archambault. In fall 2015, Dartmouth elevated women's rugby to a varsity sport and Dunn spent senior year under new head coach Katie Dowty, a Beantown alumna.

The summer after graduation, Dunn attended the National All-Star Competition and was selected for the Women's Collegiate All-Americans' series against the Maple Leafs in Salt Lake City. Dunn was in the player pathway, and the new Boston resident was readying for her first senior club season - but then a serious back injury sidelined the loose forward for the majority of fall 2016 fall season.

One year later and Dunn is one big reason why Beantown's return to the WPL has been successful thus far.

"She is back to form," Beantown coach Kelly Seary confirmed, "and continues to make a huge impact for us, with her explosive runs, deceptive speed, and quickness off the ground. I don't know what the player pathway will look like going forward, but I hope whoever's in charge will take note and give Yeja a look."

Dunn has played in three of Beantown's four games and leads the league in tries scored with six.

"Any player is capable of making positive contributions to their team through statistics alone. Yeja can obviously impact Beantown in this way, she is very a gifted athlete," Beantown co-captain Sam Luther explained. "However, what I appreciate most about Yeja is the intangible impact she makes on this team. She leads by example. Day in and day out, she shows up and gives everything she's got and never expects recognition. It is not about her as an individual but rather is always about the team as a whole."

 Melissa Barker

The team is currently 3-1 in the WPL Blue Conference and earned its most recent win (27-17 over Twin Cities) after trailing for 65 minutes. Dunn scored two tries in that Sunday win.

"She is the type of player that reignites the fire in the pit of your stomach--empowering you to work harder, to do more for your teammates," Luther continued. "There aren't many players who, simply by their work rate and passion, can change an entire team's mindset on the potential outcome of a game. Yeja Dunn changes the energy of games, to the benefit of those sharing a jersey with her."

Luther alluded to the team's future heights as propelled by players like Dunn, and fellow co-captain Danielle McDonagh echoed those sentiments.

"Yeja embodies Beantown's mantra, 'Go forward, support,'" McDonagh explained. "She is relentless on both sides of the ball, with such explosive power in her defensive launch and attack. Her positive, forward play really lights the spark for the rest of us on the pitch."

All of the team's wins were tough ones, and second half of league begins this weekend. Atlanta in Georgia is up next, and Twin Cities will be looking for revenge in Minnesota. Beantown is looking forward to the New York, which served the team its lone loss of the season thus far.

"Why we were able to have such a close game with the Amazons was because we play very similar styles. New York will be a challenge because they play a much different game," Dunn looked ahead. "Every team wants to dictate the pace of the game, but I believe that will be what we strive for against NYRC. It will be key to apply intense pressure and big hits while on defense and use the rugby IQ we have been building to make quick, smart team decisions on offense."

Beantown is hoping to finish first or second in the WPL's Blue Conference and advance to the semifinals at season's end in Tucson, Ariz. Where do teams stand after five weeks of play? Visit wplrugby.org for more information.