Burlington battled to a 14-0 win over Santa Monica during the consolation semifinals of the women’s DII championship. Burlington will compete for 5th place against Portland tomorrow.
It was a battle of the forwards and Santa Monica willingly engaged the larger Burlington pack. The first half saw the Vermont squad camped out in Santa Monica’s end, but tenacious defense and some unforced errors kept Burlington out of the try zone. Santa Monica also did well to poach the ball in contact, and that frustrated Burlington’s attempts at the try line.
“Our forwards have been dominating this year, and we wanted to test out Santa Monica forwards,” Burlington coach Tree said. “They really held up for the size, came in low and handled our big girls pretty well. It was impressive and we didn’t expect as much trouble as we got.”
Burlington attempted to take advantage of one Santa Monica wing where they felt there was a mismatch, but the backrows broke off the set pieces well and contained those potential opportunities.
There were a lot of pick and goes from either side, and #5 did well to make ground on every carry. No matter the field position, the ball rarely worked out to the backs, but when it did, it was obvious that SM had the advantage with a nice pairing between outside center Whitney Vance and fullback Sarah Harris.
“The big thing we’ve been working on is defense and not letting people score,” Burlington coach Theresa Bertram said. “Earlier in the season, we had some breakthroughs, so we wanted to focus on defense, and it’s what has gotten us this far. Next year, we’ll work more on our white-line fever and be more dynamic on offense.”
Right before the half, Burlington was able to score when wing Amanda Godette blocked a clearing kick, which eventually set up a five-meter scrum. The Burlington forwards walked it in and scrumhalf Nadine Paffett-Lugassy dotted it down. Leonie Cowley hit the conversion for the 7-0 lead into the break.
In the second half, Santa Monica had more opportunities to attack, and Vance could be found looping around the line and getting nice breaks up field. At one point, it seemed sure that Harris was going to score. A nice cover tackle found the fullback isolated a meter out on the sideline, but a lack of support set up the poach and quick clearing kick. That was Santa Monica’s story all game, and they just couldn’t finish.
Burlington’s second try capitalized on a knock-on in Santa Monica’s end. The ball bounced into the fullback’s hands, and she shipped it to Cowley, who turned the corner and beat the fullback coming across. She also converted her score, 14-0.
Heading into tomorrow’s game for 5th place against Portland, Burlington is still going to focus on controlling offensive drives toward the try line, being patient until the right scoring opportunity presents itself, and playing what the referee gives them.
The two Northeast teams are facing each other for the third time this season. Portland has won the two previous face-offs and advanced to the 5th place game with a 17-10 win over Memphis.