Today marked the South's opening weekend of the women's collegiate matrix season, and the region was treated to a few big matches.
The Cardinal Conference, which includes the Carolina teams, is already fulfilling what is going to be an interesting season. North Carolina is the favorite given its history, but the team in undergoing a rebuilding year that began with only six players who had more than a semester worth of playing experience. Coach Johnathan Atkeison spent the fall season running his rookies through the wringer, and it paid off in a massive 73-0 win over South Carolina today. The game was actually called at the 60-minute mark as USF had worked through their bench and were poised to go one-woman down.
“The process of integrating new players has given - and is still giving - us a great opportunity to examine how we're playing, and to implement some changes that help put the new players in a framework which allows them to find success while they're learning the game,” Atkeison said after the win. “Today was a good step forward in terms of getting experience working our new pattern, and conversely, seeing what happened when we left the pattern. We saw a number of things that we need to work on executing better in the coming weeks, and I think we all realize that we've got a lot of work ahead of us this season if we're going to meet the goals we set in the fall. It's very much a work in progress, but we're really excited at the direction that work is going!”
North Carolina State's fields were closed due to rain, but UNC was able to extend their field time to accommodate the game at Chapel Hill. Atkeison and players watched on as their two closest rivals, both of whom have enjoyed wins over the South champion during the past year, duke out a 19-12 win that went ECU’s way.
“It was an extremely physical match, very well contested by both sides,” Atkeison said. “ECU was able to break the stalemate at about 70 minutes and pull ahead 19-12. They held out for the last 10 minutes as NCSU just launched assault after assault inside of 10 meters from the tryline.”
UNC knows they have their work cut out for them this season, especially after witnessing the fortitude of the two Carolina teams. The Tar Heels will be relying on the veteran leadership of players like No. 8 Carrie Moss, newly minted scrumhalf Caitlin Williams, and the dynamic center pairing of Payce Madden and Jessica Meidinger to fortify the young, but athletic squad.
In the Sunshine Conference, which is comprised of Florida teams, the University of Florida started their league season with a healthy 29-12 win over Florida State. UF coach Eric Keys was pleased with the outing, although he noted some handling errors that need cleaning up.
“FSU played hard and were highlighted by fullback Dana Mechisi, who stopped a number of big runs by UF,” Keys praised his opponents. “And Kendall Vaughan led a good attacking backline. UF played multiple-phase ball with great rucking by Jackie Seoane and good leadership at the 9 spot by Caitlin Doone, pressed into that position only this morning.”
Florida’s biggest test will occur next weekend against Central Florida, which won their game against South Florida 70-0.