There were two different mentalities at work during today's Women's DI College National Championship. Those who lost in the opening round yesterday were playing for pride, desperate to exit the weekend with a win. Those who won yesterday were fighting to keep their post-season alive and earn a berth to the Final Four. With that kind of energy in the air, a slew of close matches (Colorado State 12-5 UCLA, New Mexico 12-10 UC San Diego, Northern Iowa 31-22 Dartmouth) evolved, but the pick of the day goes to Brown and Virginia's quarterfinal. A late-surging UVA forced overtime play, and after giving up a converted try in the first OT, responded with a try and penalty kick to win 25-24 late in the second.
Both teams hit the pitch running, and another ounce of intensity couldn't have been squeezed out of a single player. The defense was impeccable throughout the first half, and the first 20 minutes were spent clearing out of danger and repelling goalline attacks. Near the second quarter, Laurel Oldershaw found a gap then kicked ahead to UVA's 20 meter, then continued progress to five meters out. UVA regained control, but on the clearing kick, Shakeela Faulkner got her body in front of the ball and recovered it in the try zone for the score. Chelsea Garber converted for the 7-0 lead.
Brown was able to force some holes in Virginia's defense by flooding the rucks and over-committing defenders. The team ended the half on UVA's five meter, thanks to the able boot of Garber.
Brown extended its lead to 12-0 after Izzy McKinnon stole a UVA lineout and motored down to the opposing 5m, but Virginia's scrambling defense did well to prevent the try. From the subsequent scrum, Brown drove UVA backward, and Michelle Un touched down for the score.
UVA answered right back and big, strong wing Erica Cavanaugh broke away for a trek that ended on the five-meter, where the ball stayed alive and worked wide to Katie Estep for the score, 12-7. Cavanaugh, who was awesome on the day and a nice balance to Faulkner's tremendous running lines on Brown's end, barreled back toward the try line once again and tied it up with another try, 12-all.
On a roll, Cavanaugh made gave UVA its first lead of the game with her second try on the day, 17-12.
With 10 minutes remaining, Brown mounted an attack in UVA's end and has a 22 meter lineout to build some phases toward the try line. UVA was struck with an untimely yellow card, which opened up some space for All American Blaine Martin, who took a hands-out ball into the try zone, 17-all.
Battering into each other, the two sides drained themselves trying to break the deadlock, but neither side bent. Into overtime they proceeded.
Faulkner still had gas to burn, and she put Brown up 24-17 with a 70-meter try quickly. UVA pulled within two when freshman fullback Amber Coffman answered with a try of her own, 24-22.
At this point, the teams had been playing 90 minutes of bash-em-up rugby, and the players had to rely on their mental toughness to see them through. The penalties started to hamper Brown, and a missed UVA 40-meter penalty attempt shook the Providence team. But Brown's fatal mistake occurred minutes later when a penalty 15 meters out from their try line resulted in a three-pointer from UVA's Estep and the one-point win, 25-24.
Virginia has won Pool D and returns to the Final Four for the first time since 2004, and they'll see Penn State in Palo Alto.
In Pool D's consolation match, Michigan beat UC Davis 21-0. Michigan had given up a late lead to Brown in yesterday's game, losing only 32-29, while UC Davis dropped a 37-17 match to Virginia.
Michigan needed redemption after its narrow loss to Brown, and it took it out on Davis.
"The Brown game was a fabulous game to watch," Michigan coach Herb Reich reflected on yesterday's Round of 16 game. "The pace by both teams was a sight to behold. We had our chances to win, but Brown did an excellent job creating space out wide and putting the ball into their wings' hands."
Davis challenged Michigan with its hard runners and pressured the Midwest champion on several occasions, but the expert leadership of flyhalf Mary McCarthy, who accounted for two tries, was able to find holes in the defense.
It was an impressive weekend for the Midwest, which has also seen Notre Dame head to the DII Championship tomorrow against Radcliffe.