It'll be a CR2 final for the women's DI club championship, as Chicago North Shore and Glendale both exited the weekend with two wins apiece. Glendale eliminated Atlanta 29-5 in one semifinal, while North Shore held onto an 11-10 victory over NOVA.
When the two teams played each other during league, Glendale banked the 29-8 victory. The Raptors were still working through their continuity issues due to personnel, as was North Shore, which started the season 0-2.
North Shore demonstrated how far the team's progressed since that September 10 defeat, and legged out a truly exciting game against NOVA today.
North Shore retained the lead throughout the game, but NOVA did well to always stay within striking distance.
"We knew NOVA has dynamic ball handlers, since many of their players come from their great 7s program," North Shore's Jenny Lui said. "Our strategy was to pressure their backline, send the first three up hard and also have our backrow coming across. We were able to neutralize their dangerous backline."
The North Shore forwards set the platform for the first try of the game, which evolved after fullback Teena Mastrangelo sent a skip pass to center Jacki Gloss. Gloss broke a couple of tackles and was dragged down at the line, but had just enough to extend and dot down over the line.
"The forwards did a good job in keeping our forward momentum," Lui said. "We asked them to take their punches farther out, closer to the forward/backs hinge, and they did a great job of adapting and recycling the ball quickly."
Pam Kosanke slotted a penalty and NOVA put a try on the board to head into the break down by three, 8-5. Kosanke hit another penalty halfway through the second stanza, and those points proved to winning margin. NOVA kept it interesting and scored in the corner, but the conversion was too difficult an angle, 11-10.
With that one-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes of the game, North Shore played more conservatively, slowed the ball down and relied on pick-and-goes to eat up time on the clock. Meanwhile, they didn't make any mistakes on defense.
"Our defense held all weekend," Lui said. "There was a point where they were really pressuring us in our end late in the second half, and we put a great defensive stand."
North Shore felt good about their weekend of rugby, which included a 21-0 quarterfinal win over ORSU.
"We played some of our best rugby this weekend," Lui said. "We had that slow start and struggled to find momentum early in the league season, but we're hitting our stride now. We haven't been perfect, but we're peaking at the right time."
North Shore got some solid performances out many players, but in particular, locks Nova Riemer and Lani Larson were super aggressive against ORSU, making tackles behind the gainline and really pressuring the pack. And today, wing Alyssa Green made some important try-saving tackles and worked incredibly hard to cover linebreaks anywhere on the field.
Looking ahead to the final, North Shore will be happy to have No. 8 Kate Daley back at the base of the scrum, as well as Sarah Walsh, who has been commuting from San Francisco to play and practice.
North Shore will spend the next couple of weeks finetuning the little things and adding a trick or two to the toolbox, but most importantly, they'll be ramping up their fitness.
"Glendale is an offensively explosive team," Lui said. "We've seen their personnel and have played them, so it'll be interesting."
Regardless of what happens in the final, North Shore has already improved on last year's finish (third), as has Glendale, which has never made it to the final four.