UVA pulls away from Brown in Tuesday's friendly.
By Jackie Finlan
The UVA women have experienced some incredible highs and lows this week. Off the field, the team learned that rookie Kasey Crute was critically injured during a Global Brigades service trip to Panama.
The first-year began playing rugby this semester and her style of play quickly earned her the nickname "Moose." Crute joined Global Brigades, the world's largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization, on a trip to Panama during UVA's spring break. During a trip to a local swimming hole, Crute broke her neck in several places, and has sustained injuries that may leave her paralyzed from the neck down. It took eight hours to transport her to hospital, and due to her tenuous condition, Crute must remain in Panama until more stable.
Devastated by the news, UVA is dedicating their upcoming match against Princeton at the MARFU quarterfinals to Crute. The team has begun fundraising toward Crute's mounting medical expenses, and has solicited the support of local business, which will donate food and other services, to build Saturday's match into a highly attended event. (For more information on Crute's condition and means by which to donate, visit www.hope2kc.org).
On the field, UVA is riding a wave confidence after defeating perennial DI Final Four team Brown, which is on spring break tour, 27-17.
"We were really surprised that we beat them," UVA coach Nancy Kechner said. "Brown is the best team we've seen since last year's Sweet 16s. They've got size, are physical and fit. We've never beat them before. My guideline to the team was: Play up to their level."
But UVA did one better. The team's March 19 game against Maryland exposed weak rucking, so Kechner spent the subsequent week and a half drilling her players. The work paid off, played a big factor in maintaining possession for the first 20 minutes.
The game was very physical, and Kechner was happy to see that her smaller pack matched up well against Brown's tough forwards. UVA adjusted to Brown's fast-up defense, kicking behind and through the backline and keeping Brown honest.
Brown took the first lead with a penalty try, then UVA flanker Mary Carol Anderson initiated her side's scoring. Standout wing Erica Cavanaugh was was ill and didn't factor into the game, but 5'1" wing Minna Choi kept the outside attack alive with two tries. Captain Jen Van was at the center of all. "She's a real worker and has been a great leader," Kechner said. "She's put the team on her back."
"The girls are sick of winning their first game at Sweet 15s and losing the second one," Kechner explained the motivational performance on Tuesday. "This game was a monkey off our back. We want the Final Four, and they're putting their money where their mouth is."
Saturday's quarterfinal against Princeton is dedicated to teammate Crute, and even though UVA is favored, they're not taking their opposition lightly. "This is not a guaranteed win," the former Princeton coach said. "Princeton has been the nemesis of our lives, and beat us both times we made it to Final Fours. I've told the girls about our history with Princeton, and we respect our opposition."
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday. For more information on Crute and means to donate, visit www.hope2kc.org.