Sadie Anderson's fine kicking game allowed Penn State to maintain a lot of possession.
By Jackie Finlan
It may come as no surprise that the Penn State women have won the Mid-Atlantic's DI College Championship with a 53-10 win over Virginia today. What is truly impressive, however, is that the defending national champion isn't running its star lineup yet.
"All of our wins so far have basically been B side wins," Penn State coach Pete Steinberg said. "Our game against Virginia Tech was the first time our A side played together since tour. Against UVA [in the final], we had freshmen hooker, scrumhalf, No. 8 and wing. They're all very good high school players with four, five, six years of experience, and they're adding a lot to our team."
Some of that inexperience affected the team's 31-10 semifinal win over Navy, a very physical squad that tested Penn State's young lineup. Steinberg tried out a few different combinations, which hampered the team's fluidity.
"It didn't quite click for us," Steinberg said. "Navy's young and inexperienced, too, but they're very athletic and pressured us especially in the second half. Our scrums and lineouts were solid, but Navy disrupted our attack, and we lacked the ability to work out patterns."
"The outcome was in doubt until the second half," Steinberg said, "and by the end of that game, we exhaled a sigh of relief. It was a good test for us."
Sadie Anderson played fullback and center and accounted for 11 points on a try and three conversions. Lauren Barber, Lauren Poole and Lisa Henneman contributed tries as well, and Penn State also banked a penalty try.
UVA advanced to the final against Penn State after its 39-10 win over Maryland in the semifinals, a nice rebound win after nearly losing to the Terps (29-27) in a friendly a few weeks ago. UVA lost three of its starters, which only further handicapped the team against a fortified Penn State.
Steinberg moved Anderson to flyhalf for the final, and the All American's superb kicking game allowed the Nittany Lions to spend a lot of time in Virginia's half. The coach also added two veteran flankers to today's lineup, a change that better solidified the defense.
"We knew we had to pressure them and install a defensive partnership," Steinberg said after the 53-10 win. "Overall, I'm very happy with the defense. We allowed three tries on the weekend - one off a penalty quick-tap and another from a turnover. The defense was able to hold off good teams during phase play, and our work rate was really good."
Steinberg UVA's Erica Cavenaugh with a nice try, and was also impressed by Virginia's outside center and flyhalf.
Captain Kyle Armstrong led the charge. The lock's excellent work rate and physicality helped set the platform for Barber (2), Kasey Ferlic (2), Henneman (2), Becky Koons, Annie Lucas and Kyle Armstrong to score tries. Anderson slotted four conversions.
Penn State's freshmen Annie Lucas at No. 8 produced some good go-forward ball from the base and made some nice decisions around the field. Freshmen scrumhalf Elena Cantorna is one of three quality halfbacks on the Penn State roster, and her physical performance in today's match put pressure on her veteran teammates.
"We have three weeks before the Round of 16. Our basic skills are good, but we need more work with our body height in contact; we can be too high," Steinberg said. "We know that there are teams out there - Army, Stanford, BYU - that will be challenging us. UVA caught us on a good day - the ball was bouncing in our favor - and if we played again, I don't think we'd get that score again.
Penn State will play two-time Women's Premier League champion New York women. The following two weeks will be spent recuperating what Steinberg anticipates to be another tough weekend, but everyone's healthy and no injuries are hampering the team.
Navy defeated Maryland 36-10 for third place and will play West champion Colorado State in round of 16. Penn State has secured the top seed and will see Northern Iowa in Buffalo, N.Y., while Virginia will begin its national campaign against the Pacific Coast #3 team, who will be identified next weekend during the territory's championship.