For the last few years, it’s been the Sacramento Amazons who were the big story out of Northern California’s girls U19 division. But this year has been about Mother Lode and Bishop O’Dowd – two teams that have been last year’s national finalist and 2010 champion twice this season.
NorCal contested its championship this weekend and saw the two teams advance to the final. Mother Lode defeated Rio Linda in their semifinal, while BOD posed a convincing 36-19 win over the Amazons. Bishop O’Dowd led Sacramento 22-0 at the half before the Amazons mounted a comeback, but it was too little, too late.
Fullback Olivia Bernadel-Huey scored a brace of tries and added three conversions to lead with 16 points.
"Olivia is nothing short of spectacular,” BOD director of rugby Ray Lehner said. “Best of all, she is only a sophomore, so we will have her services for a couple more seasons."
Scrumhalf Gretchen Shaw, flyhalf Nicole Ratto, wing Audrey Carson and prop Rachel Keener also added five-pointers. No. 8 Katelin Chan ran riot over the Amazons in every phase of play and earned Woman of the Match honors.
"The girls played hard,” BOD Director of Rugby Ray Lehner said. “Sadly we lost a couple of starting backs to injury, and with our backline already somewhat depleted, we missed them for Sunday's match, which is a pity."
BOD could have used the extra punch of their typical strong backline in the final match against Mother Lode. A nail-biting championship ensued, and BOD’s Shaw got the scoring rolling seven minutes in with a try – just as she did against the Amazons. Bernadel-Huey added the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
Mother Lode snapped into action and scored an unconverted try five minutes later, and then took the lead before the half with a converted try, 12-7 into the break. Mother Lode extended their lead 17-7 at the 52nd mark, and BOD responded with a Zoe Karanfilian try three minutes later. Bernadel-Huey’s conversion pulled the team to within three points.
The remaining 25 minutes was an intense battle, but neither side could extend or close the point differential. The final whistle sounded and Mother Lode was crowned NorCal’s champ.
"It’s a disappointing loss,” Lehner said. “We had some chances that we just failed to cash in on. Championship matches are always marred by some nervous jitters, and we certainly had our share of mental mistakes at critical moments."
"One of our core team values is effort, that is, to play really hard and we certainly did,” Lehner added. “Gretchen Shaw, Amina Scott and Katelin Chan all played through pain and injury from the day before. It was inspiring, very selfless."
Mother Lode will represent NorCal at the California State Championship on May 19. Southern California is sending Fullerton, although the team actually lost to Fallbrook 20-15 during this weekend’s SoCal championship. Due to Fallbrook’s impending trip to nationals this weekend, the defending national champion has ceded its berth to the state championship. The state championship will take place at Jesuit High School in Sacramento this weekend.