NOVA women traveled to New York City yesterday to play the Village Lions in the teams’ fourth DI club match. It was well worth the trip, as the visitors returned to Virginia with a 48-5 win, bonus point and 3-1 record.
NOVA exposed some mismatches in the first minute, when wing Erica Cavanaugh streaked down the sideline for her first of two tries. Snapping to attention, the Village Lions responded with better defense, and took advantage of any unforced error.
“They had an excellent offensive structure and caused a lot of problems for us in the first half,” NOVA coach Brian Walker said. “When we surrendered possession, we found ourselves playing defense for extended periods. Once we were able to regain possession, our forwards did a good job of getting around the field, and we played well as a team today.”
The Village Lions had several opportunities inside NOVA’s 22, but the hosts couldn’t capitalize. To add to the frustration, the NOVA forwards turned over several scrums (one for a try) and were well coordinated in their driving mauls.
“It’s something that teams are starting to recognize about us,” Walker said of the forward dominance. “NOVA has historically had a reputation as a backs team, and we’re excited to still have a number of excellent backs in our line. But we worked extremely hard the last couple of years strengthening our forward pack.”
Walker credited Lance Connolly for his work the NOVA forwards and solidifying their scrumming technique. Outside of the set piece, tighthead prop Kaitlin Joerger, lock Rachel Warden, and flankers Meganne Atkins and Rachel Primo, who usually hooks, played exceptionally well. They helped put NOVA back on the right track, and the tries started to come more regularly later in the first half and onward.
The highlight of the backline was Lauren Hoeck at flyhalf. The 7s Eagle typically plays center, but Walker is still experimenting with the ideal backline. Hoeck had several long breakaways, three tries, and placed a crossfield kick right in the corner for Rebecca Keegan to simply touch down. Monique McQueen also scored a try.
NOVA still have Providence and Albany in the regular season, and both opponents are in the hunt for CR3’s second seed.
“We’re very aware that Providence and Albany are quality sides and we’re going to have to work really hard,” Walker said. “We’ll have a slight advantage playing at home. Considering the distance that needs to be covered for away matches, teams have struggled to have all of their depth on the road.”
Walker’s done his homework and is going to ramp up the team defense this week during training, with a particular focus on neutralizing fullback Dana Ayoub.
If NOVA repeats with the CR 3's second seed, they'll face CR 2's #2 team, most likely Seattle, in the first round of national playoffs.