Nothing is “safe” to state when it comes to playoffs, but DI women’s club host Atlanta is heavily favored over Chicago during the quarterfinals tomorrow.
For one, the Harlequins are hosting the event. It’s a great advantage financially, mentally as well as personnel wise – everyone who can play will be available. Secondly, Atlanta has looked really good this year. All season, they’ve been able to travel with varying lineups, working their depth, and still posted convincing wins against a region that has collectively performed better than years past.
The Harlequins did, however, play NOVA to a 6-5 scoreline with 10 minutes remaining before pulling ahead 20-5 for the win. That game was on the road and coach Jason Payne highly credited the influence of impact subs to turn the game in their favor.
Like every team, Atlanta has lost and gained its share of players this year, but one of their most influential additions is Jess Wooden. Now back to full strength, the Eagle pool player gives a nice punch to the back three, and has been slotting into flyhalf when necessary.
Chicago, the CR2’s #3 seed, started the season slowly. They lost to Detroit 27-7 in their opening match, a game that simultaneously turned heads in Detroit’s direction.
“We got off to a rough start but have come a long way since then,” Chicago coach Lisa Gartner said. “Our defense was tenacious against North Shore, and even though they won the game [19-7], we felt it was fairly evenly played.”
Chicago doesn’t have a star-studded roster, and while Atlanta has their Heather Hales and Patty Jerveys, Wooden is the only other player on the national radar now.
“We have some great talent this year, but not as much playoff experience as Atlanta,” Gartner said. “So it should be interesting. I think we’ve been balanced between our forwards and backs, but I’d like to see our backs take off this weekend.”
Regardless, Gartner is extremely proud of the progress her team has made this year.
“This time last year, the season had been over for a week, and I felt the team hadn’t lived up to their potential,” Gartner said. “This year, they have been able to seize the momentum back in a couple of games, at just the moment they needed to. The team is psyched about getting back into the playoffs.”
Atlanta and Chicago round out tomorrow’s quarterfinals, kicking off at 4 p.m. EST. Stay tuned.