Stonehill is no stranger to the women’s DII national championship, but the last two years have produced opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum results. Last year, the team was knocked out in the first round by eventual champion Washington State, and two years ago, the team advanced to the final. In 2011, Stonehill has enlivened its hope for another title run, eliminating a strong Winona State (Minn.) team 35-7 in the Round of 16.
"We played a smart game and limited our mistakes," Stonehill coach Derek Jenesky said. "We were able to pick our spots and counter-attack, finding holes in the defense when the opportunity presented itself. Our forwards were tested repeatedly, but every time Winona put us on our heels, we were able to rise up and stop them. Our backs really pressure their backs and tackled well all day."
Stonehill raced out to a 20-0 halftime lead before conceding a try in the second stanza, but nullifying that lapse in defense with another 15 points. Try scorers included Ashley George (2), Katie O'Malley (2), Shannon Etherson, Fiona Lunney and Laura Fischer.
“We had a couple of key injuries that may affect us going forward,” Jenesky added, “but we are happy to come away with a win against a tough Winona team.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s quarterfinals, Stonehill is poised to play UNC Charlotte, which advanced to the quarterfinals due to Washington State's inability to travel to Florida. UNCC is only two years old, and little background information exists on the team. Stonehill, however, has great depth and numbers, and that could be the deciding factor in tomorrow’s quarterfinal.