(Photo: Jess Shipley helped D.C. to a big win over Keystone. Dobson Images.)
It’s been a long time coming, but the D.C. Furies have won their first regular-season game in the Women’s Premier League. The floodgates opened after 20 minutes, and D.C. piled on 82 points to Keystone’s 12. The two are traditional rivals, and the games are always intense, but Saturday's game was a one-sided affair.
“Things were pretty even through the first quarter,” D.C. coach Nancy Fitz said. “Both teams were moving the ball up and down the field, but then things just started to click for us. Our forwards were winning good ball, lineouts and scrums, and were rucking well. Then the ball went out to the backs, who ran good lines, found space and finished. Once things start going well, they tend to keep going well.”
Keystone’s heads started to droop after about three tries, according to Fitz, and the visitors had to play a lot of defense in hot conditions. “We have some experience with that,” Fitz joked. Frustration set in, injuries took their toll, and Keystone ended the game with fewer than 15 on the field.
Meanwhile, D.C. kept up the pressure. The forwards outplayed Keystone in the rucks and the backs were rewarded with ample possession. Wings Sharifa Love-Schnur and Brittany Martin scored four tries apiece, while Eli White (2), Laura Miller (2), Katie Bell and Emily Miller, who also slotted six conversions, dotted down tries and kept the scoreboard busy.
It’s tempting to name Love-Schnur and Martin MVPs of the game, but Fitz explained that their opportunities only evolved after those inside them executed their jobs. Exciting additions like former Collegiate All Americans Ellen Danford and Jaime Albarelli integrated nicely into the pack and weren’t phased in the up-tick of play. Laura Miller returned to D.C. with a renewed aggression, which she honed during a year abroad playing in England.
“It’s nice to have Laura back,” Fitz said. “She’s a strong runner and tackler, and almost always wins the point of contact regardless of which side she’s on. She’s always been intense, but she really developed those skills playing in England.”
A lot of great things have been happening in the D.C. camp that has enabled this great kickoff to the season. Their dedicated core of players has been working together for years now, but they aren’t relying on familiarity to take them all the way. The team watches film, focuses on fitness, brought in guest coaches, ran a successful 7s season and sent players to the MARFU 7s team, continually recruits for added depth, and kept spirits afloat by scheduling competitive but winnable games throughout the year.
“I expected to win, but I wasn’t quite expecting the outcome we had,” Fitz said. “We haven’t been able to reach the potential we’re capable of – and this is the level we should have been at for quite a while – but for some reason it all came together yesterday.”
Fitz is cautiously optimistic. While Saturday’s win was a milestone for D.C., their defense wasn’t tested for long. They put on good pressure when Keystone had possession, but the squad should expect a bigger challenge against Beantown next weekend. Fitz is going to mentally prepare her team by lining up some hard-hitting practices this week.
Beantown dropped their opener 38-14 to the Twin Cities Amazons, who will look for win #2 against Keystone this weekend.