Cherry Hill, NJ –Despite frigid conditions on Saturday and even colder conditions on Sunday due to strong winds, Wayne State (Neb.) College battled through the elements to win their second straight women’s National Small College Organization championship last month.
It started in early September when 69 teams representing 10 Unions and Conference took the pathway to the championship game.
Wayne State made the final four weekend by beating 2012 National runners-up Roger Williams (Bristol, RI) after winning the Colonial Coast Conference and then beating Empire Upstate Champions University of Rochester 22-7 in the New England Empire Region Championship.
In the other two regions, Smith College (Northampton, Mass.), the New England Champion, defeated Franklin Pierce University and University of New England in the Northeast Region, while East Penn champions Millersville University (Lancaster, Pa.) beat Tri-State Conference champions Sacred Heart University and Ohio Conference champions Kenyon College to win the Mid-Atlantic Region.
On Saturday, the first semifinal saw Smith defeated Roger Williams 20-10. Tries from Seneca Lee, Malia Charter, flyhalf Rachel Desrochers and prop Cam Fear put Smith ahead 20-5 (RWU scored through No. 8 Sadia Crosby). Roger Williams lock Marie Giustino scored near the end but Smith held on.
Wayne State took on Millersville in the next semifinal and ran away with it 41-7. Center Maggie Warrick, the 2012 championship MVP, scored two tries to put Wayne State up 12-0, but then Millersville closed the gap with a try from wing Aizhane Padgett.
The second half was all Wayne State, though, with wing Alex Feeley scoring twice and three others touching down.
On Sunday, both Millersville and Roger Williams played for third in brisk winds and sub-zero temperatures. Hit by injury, Roger Williams had to shuffle their lineup, and struggled.
Millersville center Sarah Frey scored a long-range try, and then flanker Brandi Tipton made it 10-0. RWU replied, but Millersville lock Melissa Carpino’s goalkicking kept the scoreboard ticking over, and tries from Brooke Langton, Rebecca Davis, and Frey again finished things off 33-5 for Millersville.
Then to the final. Wayne State had to work very hard for it, but ended up beating Smith 18-5 to take the title. Jasmine Kovacs capped off a long period of Wayne State pressure to open the scoring. Five minutes later Smith used their forwards to get lock Gretchen Streett over to tie the score. Wayne’s Kaylee Freese notched a penalty goal to nudge her side ahead 8-5 at the break.
Both teams defended well in the second half and for more than 30 minutes the score remained 8-5. With eight minutes to go, Maggie Warrick dotted down to put the Wildcats ahead 13-5. Kayla Lavalais added a try at the whistle to seal it for Wayne State, but Smith was in it until the end.
NSCRO "Heart & Soul" Award – a match ball was given to a player on each team who was been an inspiration and significant contributor to the club both on and off the field. The match ball is to be signed by her teammates in appreciation of what she has meant to the club. The following recipients were honored in this way:
Roger Williams University – Mikaela Feroli
Millersville University – Christina Houck
Smith College – Cam Fear and Rachel Desrochers
Wayne State College – Emily Atkinson and Bonnie Sisco
During the weekend a three-person committee selected an all-championship XV.
Each player selected received a trophy, a custom designed NSCRO T-shirt courtesy of World Rugby Shop, and a Philadelphia Women’s RFC T-shirt recognizing their selection:
Prop – Anna Jiminez, Smith
Hooker – Roxann Cuda, Roger Williams
Prop – Cam Fear, Smith
2nd Row – Julianne Wilke, Wayne State
2nd Row – Felica Pursche, Wayne State
Back Row – Amber Kutnink, Wayne State
Back Row – Brandi Tipton, Millersville
Back Row – Sadia Crosby, Roger Williams
Scrumhalf – Jasmine Kovacs, Wayne State
Flyhalf – Kaylee Freese, Wayne State
Center – Seneca Lee, Smith
Center – Sarah Frey, Millersville
Wing – Alex Feeley, Wayne State
Wing – Lisa Rayford, Smith
Fullback – Sarah-Rose Oberman-Breindel, Smith
Amber Kutnink of Wayne State was selected as the Championship MVP.