(Photo: Humboldt No. 8 Aoibheann Cline scored 30 of the team's 50 points.)
Heading into today’s semifinal at the Pacific Coast Women DII College Championship, Humboldt coach Jon Mooney knew the outcome of the match hinged on how the team came out in the opening minutes. In a similar position as last year's playoffs, when Humboldt came out flat against Washington State, the team resolved not to repeat its mistake against Western Washington today.
And the team came through with a 50-12 win for the final’s berth against Washington State.
“I thought our team injuries and general soreness would be bigger factors than they turned out to be,” Mooney said. “The team really stepped it up. Everything we've been working on for the past year was coming together, we were connecting, and our continuity made all the difference.”
Despite the final score, the match wasn’t a runaway win for Humboldt. In the first half, the Flames scored their two lone tries that indirectly resulted from Humboldt penalties. Western Washington was very competitive in the breakdowns and outplayed Humboldt in the set pieces. The Humboldt scrum especially suffered, but that was more a reflection of available personnel.
“During halftime, I talked about supporting breakaways,” Mooney said. “We had a couple of linebreaks, but the ballcarriers went unsupported, were tackled after 30 meters, and we lost the ball. In the second half, I saw a bigger team take the field and they really turned it on.”
Once Humboldt shored up its support lines, the team’s open-field flair took centerstage.
“When we get our support runner there, we can really roll down the field,” Mooney said. “We’re good at passing out of the tackle, popping from the ground, or as soon as someone gets tackled, the pick-and-go. We were able to do all that before the defensive line had time to realign, and were able to go, and go, and go again.”
No. 8 Aoibheann Cline scored 30 points on the day with four tries and five conversions. All of the usual suspects stood out on the day – scrumhalf and captain Annie Fehrenbach, lock Adriana Conrad-Forrest, and rookies Chlesea Brunett and Jordan Ludtke responded well to post-season pressure.
“Western Washington is a solid team, and honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable that we would win until the end of the game,” Mooney said. “At no point did I think they couldn’t come back because they were strong.”
Washington State and UC Santa Cruz took the pitch afterward, and Humboldt watched on as WSU won 84-5.
“We played them last year in the play-ins, and as long as we don’t do what we did last year – falling asleep for 20 minutes – we can really challenge them,” Mooney said. “They’re dominated by their hard running, fast-paced backs, and their 10/12 [Alexis and Megan Bonny] dominated the game. Their forwards are mobile, but it’s their backs that put them over the top.”
Mooney wasn’t too worried about the intimidation factor. Instead, the players looked for weaknesses in Washington State’s game and brainstormed ways to take advantage of them tomorrow.
But regardless of what happens tomorrow, Mooney is already so proud of his team. Humboldt has been wholly focused on this semifinal and hasn’t looked beyond achieving today’s win. Humboldt is heading to nationals and if the team wins tomorrow, it will play So Cal champ CSU – Northridge; otherwise, Wyoming will await the team in the first round of nationals.