Written by Jackie Finlan    Tuesday, 17 September 2013 11:20    PDF Print Write e-mail
Norwich, Army Bank First Wins in ACRA
Colleges - Women's College

The American College Rugby Association (ACRA) did not ease into its DI season, most notably in the Northeast. Two of the most highly anticipated match-ups – Norwich vs. Quinnipiac and Army vs. AIC – occurred during three of the four competitors’ league openers. The favorites prevailed, but the games did not disappoint.

Megan Pinson atop the lineout during AIC's 51-41 loss to Army. (David Orrick photo)
Quinnipiac's Natalie Kosko (left) and Norwich's Joya Clark close in. (David Orrick photo)
Sophomore center Ally Day scored three tries for Norwich. (David Orrick photo)

The Army vs. AIC match was more compelling in terms drama. The Yellow Jackets got the scoring rolling early, as Eagle prop Jess Davis dotted down the first of her two tries to give the home team the first lead. AIC got excellent performances out of their highly publicized recruits: scrumhalf Cassidy Meyers, who scored one try and three conversions, and No. 8 Megan Pinson, who had three tries (Mercedes Minaya also scored a try).

The teams entered halftime at 22-all and picked up the bout right where they’d left it. With the clock winding down, AIC trailed Army 46-41 and launched a methodical campaign toward the Cadets’ tryline. Points looked promising but then a momentary lapse in focus turned all of that hard work into an intercept try for Army, which took home the 51-41 victory.

Army’s April Emerson led the Cadets with three tries, while Kate Roose and Mariah Caid-Loos each banked a brace of tries. Lindy Clark and Clare Moser also added five-pointers, and Hannah Jones slotted three conversions.

“A really tough match by a big and well disciplined AIC team,” Army Director of Rugby Mike Mahan said. “Lots of injuries on both sides; we were lucky to escape with a win. Their #1 [Jess Davis], #8 [Megan Pinson] and #9 [Cassidy Meyers] are very talented! We expect to see more of AIC in the playoffs.”

Both sides showed some vulnerability in their early-season matches, but they also showed that they know how to score. Quinnipiac, on the other hand, was stifled on the scoreboard against Norwich. An oppressive defense suffocated the Bobcats’ offense, which includes weapons like USA Junior All Americans Natalie Kosko and Maggie Myles. Norwich, current DI championship finalists, were well aware of these threats and unleashed the well balanced game for which they’re renowned.

“It was a great match with Quinnipiac,” Norwich coach Austin Hall said. “They are certainly on the up and up and will continue to be a challenge. We played very well for this early in the season and put forth a total team effort. We all watched the U20 Nations Cup [in July], and we all cheered for Natalie and Maggie during that event. We were confident that our team-centered focus would prevail.”

Norwich raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead, aided by center Ally Day and wing Joya Clark, who were the most successful finishers on the day. Both notched hat tricks in the 41-5 victory and took advantage of defensive mismatches out wide. Two of Day’s try evolved after taking the corner, and the third came in support of No. 8 Vanessa Champagne, who sacrificed her body to a powerful Kosko tackle.

Clark’s scores all had different stories: The first came after seven Norwich players quickly worked the ball wide to the wing; the second was a fantastic individual effort in which she took the ball from inside Norwich’s 22 meter, side-stepped Kosko and turned on the heat to burn past the rest of the defense; and her final try came after broken play when an errant, wide kick bounced into Clark’s hands for the easy try.

All American prop Baylee Annis rounded out Norwich’s try-scoring, finishing off a 60-meter Sophie Mundell breakaway. Flyhalf Hannah Bell (who also slotted three conversions) was in quick support and set up Annis, who thumped through the defense for the score.

The play of the game was saved for the waning moments. Kosko weaved through traffic and broke through the line, pushing off Clark and stalling Rose Bernheim at fullback. Kosko had only green ahead of her, but Clark put her head down, closed in on the powerful center, wrapped her arms around Kosko and brought her down, as the crowd went wild. A couple of Norwich penalties allowed Quinnipiac to keep attacking inside the Cadets' 22 meter, and the ball finally worked wide to Myles, who supported a Kosko half-break through the line, 41-5.

The rest of ACRA’s Northeast DI was more even: UConn eked past Vermont 12-10; Northeastern was three points better than Boston University (17-14); UMass defeated New Hampshire 22-10; and Rhode Island dominated Boston College 36-5.

This weekend sees more cross-conference play, and the game of the season will go down in West Point, N.Y.: Army vs. Norwich. Quinnipiac plays Harvard in a friendly tonight, then takes on AIC in Hamden, Conn., this weekend.

ACRA DI - Northeast
Norwich 1 0 0 41 5 36 2
Rhode Island 1 0 0 36 5 31 2
AIC 1 1 0 86 75 11 2
Boston University 0 1 0 14 17 -3 0
New Hampshire 0 1 0 10 22 -12 0
Vermont 0 2 0 34 57 -23 0

UMass 1 0 0 22 10 12 2
Army 1 0 0 51 41 10 2
Northeastern 1 0 0 17 14 3 2
UConn 1 0 0 12 10 2 2
Boston College 0 1 0 5 36 -31 0
Quinnipiac 0 1 0 5 41 -36 0