Division II women’s colleges in Eastern Pennsylvania took their first step into the post season this weekend, and Temple, La Salle, Shippensburg and Delaware are still in the hunt for a seed to the MARFU championships.
The EPRU receives three seeds to the territorial championships held in the spring, but this year marked the first time that the LAU began its qualifying process at the quarterfinal level. It’s been a very exciting season, at least in the eastern division, as the seeding wasn't determined until the Temple v La Salle match last Wednesday (Temple won 5-0). Shippensburg won the western division easily, outscoring opponents 164-12. The seedings came down to the final weekend of play in the west, and some of that drama translated to the first round of playoffs.
Having cruised through league season, Shippensburg was aptly challenged by Drexel during its 22-7 win.
“We were hoping to have a greater score difference against Drexel, but they came out stronger than we expected,” Shippensburg captain Chelsea Keenan said of the DII newcomer. “We have never played each other before, so we were anxious and curious about their playing experience and level of their athleticism. They definitely gave us a run for our money.”
Shippensburg took advantage of Drexel’s weaker set pieces and was able to steal possession on multiple occasions. Shippensburg also had superior support at the breakdowns as well as breakaways. The balanced game resulted in evenly spaced tries from captain Erin Moore, Emily Grotzinger and Dawn Porowski (2).
“One player in particular who stood out was Dawn Porowski, who is a loose-head prop,” Keenan praised. “She scored two of our tries. She showed excellent perseverance on the field and had great tackles.”
Shippensburg was able to dominate late in the game, as their conditioning started to take center stage. And players need to come off, Shippensburg tapped it’s incredibly deep bench. Drexel brought fewer than 20 players to the game and struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.
“We look forward to playing back-to-back games this weekend for the EPRU Championship and hope to come out top with a shiny new medal,” Keenan exclaimed. “Our starting 15 consists mostly of juniors and seniors with great knowledge of the game, and good sportsmanship. We will be working very hard this week in order to prepare us for the upcoming weekend.”
Shippensburg will host La Salle, which won 7-0 against a very big Scranton squad on Saturday, in the EPRU semifinals.
The other semifinal will occur between Temple and Delaware, both of whom won their quarterfinals with healthy margins last weekend. Temple downed East Stroudsburg 40-5, and Delaware shut out York 51-0.
The two teams played each other early in league season, and the Owls won 12-5. Since then, both sides have undergone massive improvements.
“Since losing to us in the first week of the season, they have gone undefeated and seem to be hitting their stride just like us,” Temple coach Owen Jones said. “I am expecting a very spirited game as a coach and a very fun one as a fan.”
Temple’s offense has certainly found its rhythm, but Jones credited the defense with Saturday’s win over ESU.
“Our defense set the tone for the game with a fast line and we were consistently making contact on their side of the gain line,” Owens said. “ESU had strong runners who, if given the outside, could do some damage, but we played very sound defensive and made their attack turn back into our forwards rather than able to go wide.”
It took some time for Temple to put some distance between them and ESU, and halftime ended with a 12-0 lead in the Owls’ favor. A few decision-making blunders kept Temple within ESU’s striking distance, but the Owls’ consistent pressure on defense began to take its toll in the second half.
“The past two seasons, it seemed as if I was talking about the same three to five girls each week as being the scorers and standout players,” Owens said. “This year, we have been very fortunate to have consistent performances from each and every player. The offense has been very balance and 11 different players scored: six different forwards and five different backs.”
Owens was also pleased to see five rookies contribute to an elimination playoff match.
Once again, both Saturday and Sunday matches are important. With three seeds to the MARFU championship, all but one team will continue on to the territorial championships in the spring.