Photo: JD Black
DENVER – Penn State and Central Washington claimed the top two seeds from pool play in the Women’s Division at the 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships at University of Denver Saturday.
The Nittany Lions and Wildcats contested the Women’s Division I National Championship May 9 in Kennesaw, Ga., as the top two teams in the 15s code, and both proved worthy in the Olympic form of Rugby Sevens.
Penn State conceded just two tries in three Pool A matches, scoring 105 points in the process. Rutgers, which went into its first match of the day against the Nittany Lions with a game plan, advanced to Sunday’s Cup Quarterfinals with defeats of UC Davis and Montana State.
“We were only going to play our starters in the first half of the Penn State game,” Scarlet Knights Head Coach Ken Pape said. “Our goal was to rest the girls as much as possible. We were pretty confident – with our girls rested – we’d be able to knock [UC Davis] down and we took care of them.
“We stuck with Penn State, arguably the best team in the country, 14-7 [at halftime]. That could have gone our way; we had a couple breaks, a couple miscues. If we can hang with Penn State for seven minutes we’ll be able to hang with anybody.”
Apart from the loss to Penn State at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University earlier this month, Central Washington had only fallen to a club side in the 15s game. In sevens, the Wildcats lost two close matches to Cal at the Oregon State University 7s qualifier in October.
The Wildcats conceded just three tries all day, and they all came in the opening match against Princeton. Humboldt State and North Carolina felt the wrath of an in-form Central Washington squad, which had two weeks to jump from 15s to sevens, in shutout losses to end both teams’ Cup hopes.
“It was a quick adjustment,” Wildcat and All-American Ashley Rolsma said. “I thought we capitalized on a lot of our opponents’ mistakes, and that opened a lot of tries for us. Defense is something we still need to work on, but we just started to get into it.
“We’ve definitely grown defensively since the first game, and I think we’ll just keep on going.”
Going into its last match of the day, Princeton needed a win to get through Pool C. Humboldt State scored its second try of the day to draw level with Princeton just before halftime of the final pool match, but the Ivy League team saw out the win to book a place in the Cup Quarterfinals.
“I think the first game is always really hard,” Princeton’s Jessica Lu said. “Playing the most challenging team in the pool may not be the best way but losing made us really want to win even more, and that’s how we came out on top in the next two games.”
“We knew we had to win to move on, so that mentality and playing for each other is how we went into it,” Philomina Kane said. “We just did what we needed to do.”
Stanford and Cal suffered unexpected defeats in Pool B and Pool D play, respectively, though both earned seven points with a 2-1 record to qualify for the Cup Quarterfinals.
Virginia was able to pull one over the Cardinal, which had won its first two matches to secure a top-two finish in the pool. Cal, on the other hand, ran into a hot Lindenwood team in the second match of pool play.
“I think we struggled with the delays more than anything,” Cal Head Coach Lucy Croy said. “It’s a mental game.
“The Lindenwood game was great for us. This is one of the first tournaments we’ve had in the last six months with our starting squad, so it was good to have some pressure and be challenged. We’d rather be challenged today and step up tomorrow.”
Penn State and Stanford will recreate the College 15s National Championship match from 2014 in the Cup Quarterfinals, while Central Washington will get its rematch with Cal. Virginia earned a draw with Rutgers and Lindenwood will play Princeton Sunday in the opening knockout round.
The Women’s Division Cup competition will be played on Ciber Field and Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium Sunday, with all matches scheduled to be streamed live on USA Rugby TV. The Cup Final will be broadcast live on ESPN3.