NOVA defeated Albany 31-10 in a hard-fought match to end its women’s DI club’s league season with a 5-1 record.
“It wasn't pretty, but we clinched our playoff spot and that was our number one goal,” NOVA coach Brian Walker said. “We knew Albany would compete hard in the breakdowns and they did a great job of that.
“Collectively as a team, we weren't happy about our performance and that represents a mental step forward for us,” Walker continued. “In the past, we would have been happy with the win and not expected more. To compete effectively for a title we need to be hungry and wanting to do better than last week's match, every time out of the gate. I think we will go back into training this week with a new intensity, and be focused when we get to Austin.”
Albany fought for possession at every opportunity, and did a good job of playing controlled attacking phases with a lot of continuity. They played tough goalline defense as well and turned away several of NOVA scoring opportunities in the first half. They've shown all season that they can compete and win at the D1 level.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs, NOVA's backline found some early running and kicking opportunities to play deep in Albany's end for large parts of the first half. Scrumhalf Kristen Campbell opened the scoring with an early try, which she centered to provide flanker Rachel Primo with an easy conversion. Hooker Hayle Ziobro followed suit, taking a ball off a lineout for 20 meters before sliding into the right corner.
“As a coach it was one of those games where you wish you could take back a 10-minute chunk of the game and have a do-over,” Albany coach Lori Staples said. “We got down 12-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game by giving up some easy weak-side tries. After that the team started to bounce back. The turning point was the forwards deciding just to run it right at the heart of their defense for awhile. It got them on their back foot, and we were able to get a nice weak side overload when flyhalf JoAnne Kos drew the defender and sent a perfectly timed pass out to winger Wllow Eyers, who ran it in from about 20 meters out.”
NOVA spent the remainder of the half in Albany end, but was unable to breach the line until the 38th minute, when lock Alexsis Mansisidor took a pass from fellow lock Rachel Warden and dove over from short range, putting the score at 17-5 going into halftime.
“That try really was a tough one because I felt like we were really starting to get control of the match,” Staples said. “So instead of only being down five at the half it was back to 12.”
Albany didn’t back down, however, and the heavy hits continued into the second half. Albany knocked on the door a few times, and dominated possession and territory overall. Game MVP Erica Cavanaugh relieved pressure with two tries (both converted by Primo) to give NOVA some much needed breathing room in the middle part of the half.
“I knew our season was over when NOVA scored their fourth try and picked up the bonus point,” Staples said. “At that point I made sure to get some of our rookies in the game so they could get some quality playing time against a tough team.”
Albany bounced back and logged a forwards try at the 70th minute, and the game ended with a held-up try in NOVA’s end zone, 31-10 the final.
“Even though we finished the season with two losses, I'm really proud of how the club responded and never got down on themselves,” Staples said. “Next year the three teams we lost to will be traveling to us and I'm sure we'll be in for some exciting rematches.
“Overall I'm very happy with how our first season in DI went,” Staples continued. “I feel like that this is a division we definitely belong in and it was encouraging to see the whole club respond to the challenges of moving up a division.”
NOVA takes the second seed out of CR3 and will play Seattle in the national round of 8.