Navy women have gotten off to a good start, winning two friendlies against DI powerhouses Brown (21-7) and Virginia (10-3). This weekend, the Midshipmen look to mix up their 40-deep roster in a round robin against UVA, Maryland and DC Furies.
“Both of the games were great, and typical of early-season matches,” Navy coach Sue Parker said. “Against Brown, we were both sticking our toes in the water to get a feel for what was working.
“Nancy [Kechner] graduated 11 starters, so she and the team have to be extremely pleased with the way they played,” Parker applauded UVA. “They hadn’t lost that chaotic, swarming nature of play that kept us out of the level of organization we were trying to impose across the field.”
In those first two matches, Parker kept the A side and B side players alongside each other, but she’s using this weekend’s round robin to expose the younger players to the experience of the veterans. Although Parker only lost four players from last year’s team, 32 of the 40 players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. Players like flyhalf Jane Paar, who is in USA 7s coach Ric Suggitt’s player pool, front row Jen Sandifer, who’s played several games for USA U20 coach Bryn Chivers, and loosehead prop Koi Watson will be integral to guiding the underclassmen’s learning curve.
Parker has been impressed thus far by the team's level of motivation, and is equally excited by influx of athleticism from the sophomore class.
“We’ve had a dearth of speed the last couple of years, which forces us to play a more contained game,” Parker said. “With the addition of speed, we have more options to play a diversified game.”
Navy and the University of Maryland are the only teams in the Potomac, similar to MARFU’s Eastern Penn, which contains Penn State and West Chester alone. But Parker isn’t necessarily lamenting the non-existent league schedule.
“It’s completely an added bonus,” Parker said of the freedom to create their own schedule. “The strength of our schedule is uncommon in East Coast teams. We play Brown, UVA, Maryland, Air Force, DC Furies, and then Canadian collegiate champs St. Xavier. We have unbelievable flexibility to create a schedule against top-tier teams.”
Navy will get an early look at Maryland, which dropped a 61-0 contest to West Chester last weekend, and tune up against DC Furies, which are enjoying their bye week from the WPL. UVA will be looking to settle up with the Midshipmen as well, so it should be a good day of rugby in College Park, Md.
In other MARFU news, defending DI national finalist Penn State will get play a couple of friendlies against visiting Michigan and East Carolina. What more can be said about Penn State? The Nittany Lions have a well of depth, headlined by Sadie Anderson, who earned her first four caps for USA senior side during the Nations Cup this summer, Lisa Henneman, Alyssa Boff, Christiane Pheil, Lauren Poole and BrieAnna Barto.
Like all teams, Michigan is in the early stages of rebuilding its team and looking forward to abbreviated periods of play.
“I will not know until late October where we stand compared to last year,” Michigan coach Herb Reich said of the team that nearly knocked off Brown at DI nationals. “At this time last year, we had the best team Michigan has had in a very long time. This year we start the season with 12 returning players and 12 rookies who have never played in a game of rugby. There is some real class in the athleticism of the new players, and if they can make a commitment, we expect them to grow and help us defend our Midwest title.”
Finally, West Chester will look to build on its winning record and take on James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va. Cheryl Johnson was electric for the Golden Rams last weekend, scoring four tries against Maryland in the team’s season opener.