Cherry Hill, NJ - On a warm and sunny Fall day, the National Small College Rugby Organization's (NSCRO) Divisions 3 and 4 Women's Collegiate Championships were concluded, with Minnesota champions Carleton College taking the D3 crown, and New England’s Johnson State winning D4.
Carleton pulled away in the second half of their final from Eastern Penn champs Lock Haven University to win 59-7.
In the D4 final New England RFU winners Johnson State College held off Eastern Penn’s Albright College 12-5.
In Saturday's D3 semifinals, Lock Haven took an early lead against the New York State champions St. Bonaventure University and held off a second-half rally to win 36-10. Carleton faced the New England RFU champions Wentworth Institute of Technology and seemed to have the match under control as they took a 29-5 lead in the second half. But ten minutes into the second period, WIT exploded for three tries – one converted – to come within a score at 29-22. Carleton held on from there.
On Sunday, Lock Haven faced Carleton in the D3 final under the watchful eye of referee Pete Hesler.
Carleton were outstanding on this day, relying on their strong coaching and skills to overcome any fatigue. Carleton lock Avery Johnson picked up the ball at the back of ruck and powered in from 5 meters to give her team a 5-0 lead three minutes into the match. Lock Haven inside center Kayla Robison responded with a strong 30 meter run and with the conversion Carleton was down 7-5. But not for long.
Both teams had chances to score in the next few minutes, and eventually that chance was taken by Carelton. Johnson powered over from close-in to give her team a 10-7 lead. Flyhalf Robin Burrell picked up a loose ball and scampered 10 meters to score and with the conversion by winger Adriane Kisch-Hancock, Carleton took a 17-7 lead at halftime.
The second half showed Lock Haven was ready to come back but despite their strong attacks they could not score. Arden Caffrey, Carleton's No. 8, scored a fine try 12 minutes into the half, and with another Kisch-Hancock conversion it was 24-7. Carleton's pressure and quick passing started paying off and they ran into five more tries, all converted, to pull away 59-7 and cap off a perfect season.
In an excellent match for third place, Wentworth scored a late try to edge St. Bonaventure 19-17. Both teams had something to prove after losing in the semifinals and both did so, showing plenty of mettle in a back-and-forth contest.
Carleton's Arden Caffrey was named MVP, while Lock Haven's outstanding flanker, Erin Smith, was awarded the game ball.
In the Division 4 Championship match, with a large contingent of fans from both sides along with school mascots (the Albright Lion and Johnson State Badger) cheering the teams, referee Terry Haas's whistle started what was to be a very entertaining match.
Johnson State winger Miranda Ingram broke two tackles to give her team a 5-0 lead ten-minutes into the first half. Albright, which was dominant in their D4 season in the EPRU, responded and drove to the goal line. The Badger defense, however, stopped the Lions time and again. The score held up at halftime.
Center Nora Wynter showed great athletic prowess and was able to lead the Johnson State backs on attack after attack by continually breaking the gain line. And it was Wynter who broke through on a 20-meter run to score a fine try that, with the conversion, put Johnson State up 12-0.
The score stood up until Albright's scrumhalf Jessica Tain recovered her own pop kick in-goal at the end of the match. That made the score 12-5 and was just reward for Albright’s endeavor, but it wasn’t enough.
Johnson State, which started playing rugby in 2009, are now national champions.
Johnson States's inside center Zahara "Nora" Wynter was named MVP, while Albright's Jessica was awarded the game ball.
DVDs of the D3 semifinals and both finals can be purchased from NSCRO. A DVD Order form is available at www.nscro.org.
Organizers praised the teams for their skills and sportsmanship. Thanks also went to Kate Hallinan and the Philadelphia Women's RFC for hosting the event and making all of the teams feel welcome, Quinn Conaboy, Pete Hesler and the South Jersey RFC for providing their rugby facility for the event, BC Productions for their video coverage, commentators Phaidra Knight and Matt Robinette, Stacie Anastasio, ATC and Kathryn T Gollotto, DO for their medical coverage.
Referees: Terry Haas, Pete Hesler and Richard Cobb.
Assistant Referees: Chey Coats, Tim Burdick and Quinn Conaboy.