Winona State, the second-rated women’s DII college in the Midwest, hosted Foolsfest last weekend, and was rewarded with a tournament title for their efforts. The event boasted the most competitive lineup in its history, with two division one teams – UW Milwaukee and Minnesota – making the trip to Winona, Minn.
The day started well enough with an 11-0 over Mankato State, with two penalties from Lilly Wellenstein and try from Megan Wingert, who finished off a nice driving lineout toward the goal line. Ashley Nelson and Caitlin Froh did well to relieve pressure and set up a nice kick-and-chase game, but the Black Katts struggled at the breakdown a bit, getting penalized for not rolling away. The team was also a little sluggish in challenging Mankato’s tap penalties and the lifting in the lineouts needed some refinement.
The team regrouped for its biggest win of the day against DI’s UW Milwaukee, getting two tries from No. 8 Hillary Pletta, one from Wingert and conversion from Wellenstein. Winona’s scrums dominated Milwaukee’s, and the team picked up its intensity and saw solid performances from flanker Rebecca Rengel, and hard running from Kaleigh Curran and Jeri Blau. While this match saw fewer penalties in breakdown than the previous match, the team had issues retaining the ball in the tackle, and support was a little slow in maintaining possession.
Winona’s two pool play matches were finished before 11 a.m., so the team was pretty stiff four hours later when the final against DI’s Minnesota kicked off. It was the toughest match of the day for the Black Katts, but the team eked out a 5-0 win thanks to a try from lock Katie Sirek. The forwards once again dominated the scrums, and Rengel did well to stabilize the lineouts in the air. More good kicking from Froh allowed Briony Sheckler to get her hands on the ball, and the dangerous ballcarrier often required multiple defenders to bring her down. There was some disconnect between the backs and forwards, and more refinement in the rucking structure will provide scrumhalf Wellenstein more time to provide clean ball to the backs.
“This was the most talented Foolsfest every,” Winona coach Roger Riley said, “and there were no easy games. I’m very proud of the girls for beating two DI teams, and congratulate them on winning a hard-fought Foolsfest.”
Winona heads to Ruggapalooza this weekend before shipping off to Kissimmee, Fla., for its Round of 16 match against Stonehill College.