The Pacific Mountain North Conference initiated its first-ever season with a barn burner of a match. Oregon State traveled to UC Davis for the women’s DI college league opener, and through the first 40 minutes, it looked like the visitors would return home with a victory.
The first half was evenly contested, but OSU was able to convert a couple of opportunities into points. The Black Plague absorbed Davis’ sustained attack around the fringes and in the middle of the field, and did well to force a couple of turnovers in the breakdown. One such change of possession saw the ball work wide to Haley Dietz, whose shoulder injury wasn’t as bad as originally forecasted. Hannah Lockwood slotted the conversion and also handled the two-pointer for Caroline Midkiff’s try. From 15 meters out, the inside center made good on one of few forays inside Davis’ 22 meter, fended a handful of tacklers, and dotted down the second try of the half, 14-0.
“We played confidently, tackled well and repelled a constant Davis attack,” OSU coach David Dickson said of the first half. ” At half-time, I thought things just might continue to go our way, but we weren’t so lucky.”
Davis didn’t veer from its punishing, forward-oriented game plan, and the physical toll began to wear down OSU’s tackling resolve and discipline in the breakdowns. As the penalties piled up, Davis was able to keep the majority of possession in OSU’s half, and tie the game up with 10 minutes to go.
From the subsequent kickoff, a handling error returned the ball the Davis, and the California team slowly marched back into OSU territory. With about five minutes to go, another OSU penalty set up a shot at goal 15 meters out, 10 meters right of center. Davis kicker slotted the kick with ease for the 17-14 lead.
It went pretty well! I would've preferred a win, obviously, but all and all, I'm really happy with how we played. We lost a close game, 14-17, but we showed dramatic improvement over previous performances, played with a great deal of spirit and heart, and gained confidence in our opener in this new league.
The following kickoff turned out to be the last of the game, and OSU was given one last shot to put some points on the board. From the kickoff, Davis was awarded a penalty and cleared to touch, but failed to form the subsequent lineout in a timely fashion. The referee then awarded OSU a free kick and the final two minutes of the game evolved on Davis’ try line.
“It was an all out fire drill as the OSU women were playing with a sense of urgency,” Dickson said. “We were pounding on the Davis goal line with all our might - but not all our brains, failing to see an overload out wide - but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The day ended with another handling error, and Davis held on for the thrilling win.
“We stood on the losing end of a game that was ours to win,” Dickson said. “In fairness, Davis was probably feeling like they should've won by a larger margin, and they would have if not for a few breaks our way. They spent most of the second half, and even long periods of the first half, in our territory but failed to score. We held them up in the try zone a couple times. It was partly our defense, and partly some unlucky breaks for them. After seeing the way their kicker nailed that go-ahead penalty kick, I was left wondering why they didn't go for points more often, we certainly gave them plenty of opportunities.”
The game was very close, but we were able to pull out the win with a penalty kick with about 5 minutes to play (17-14.) “OSU battled right up to the final whistle, and pressed our line right to the end,” UC Davis coach Kai Nevel said. “Both teams played with great heart, and either team rightly deserved the win. For us it was particularly sweet, as we gave up 14 points in the first half and came back by sticking to our game plan, and believing in ourselves. We have a lot of new players in the mix who are filling some very big shoes, and this type of win will give the team a great boost of confidence.”
“We were all upset, understandably, but we walked away with a new sense of confidence in our ability to play as a team,” Dickson said. “We found it for 40 minutes, we just need to find it for another 40 minutes. Ultimately, we really need to focus on reducing the number of handling errors and penalties, and maintaining consistent diligence on defense.”
Both teams will have the opportunity to improve on week one’s performance this weekend as Davis plays Cal, and OSU hosts Stanford.