Going into Sunday’s Women’s Premier League match, New York and Minnesota knew that it was the teams’ best chance to break their losing streaks. Hosting the Valkyries on Randall’s Island was certainly a boon for New York, and the home team ran out to a 56-5 victory.
“The team is very happy with the win,” New York captain Rebecca Brafman said. “Over the break, we had targeted this third game as the point from which we were going to turn our season around. We now have the opportunity to build on this win for the next three games, and give ourselves a shot at competing for a spot on the top four.”
It’s certainly a weighty challenge for the reigning WPL champ, as they must surpass San Diego or Twin Cities in the rankings. The two red conference leaders faced off on Saturday in the game of the season, with the Surfers emerging 22-17.
But New York’s fortune may be changing, especially with the reintroduction of wing Vanesha McGee, who had missed the first two games. She was the team’s leading try scorer the last two seasons, and her impact was immediately felt on Sunday.
“Vanesha McGhee will be involved in the rest of the season thus far,” Brafman said. “Aside from her athletic abilities, she will play an important leadership role both for the outside backs, and for the team as a whole, and we will all benefit from her experience.”
But even with McGee’s addition, New York has still struggled to get its full backline running together, as fullback Kath Ryan was sidelined with an ankle injury yesterday.
The Valkyries are all too familiar with personnel issues, and have been experiencing the same growing pains that occur with a young team.
“They relied heavily on the leadership of players like Sara Chobot at flyhalf, Kristen Zdancewicz at flanker, and Lauren Daly at No. 8,” Brafman said. “They were inspirational for them, providing a lot of go-forward ball and heart at the tackle contest.
“But ultimately we were a more mobile team, and were able to move the ball away from breakdowns quickly and find open space. There were moments in which we demonstrated the ability to play our patterns and create quick ball, as well as moments where we were able to apply a significant amount of defensive pressure.”
New York sent seven people across the try line, so it was a true team effort. The hosts had the opportunity to play many of its young players, three of whom scored their first WPL tries. The team was especially excited to roster Angie Rosario, who graduated from the club’s U-19 program.
“Obviously this will take a lot of effort on our part, and we have a lot of work to do in the next month,” Brafman said about turning the season around, “but it's a good starting point for a young team learning what it takes to win in the WPL.”
The rematch ensues this weekend, as New York flies out to Minnesota. Across the road, San Diego will be in town playing Twin Cities.