It’s been a one-way season for Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The reigning Allegheny champ looked to be the toughest women’s DII college in the region again, cruising through the league 3-0, outscoring opponents 258-0. But IUP met its match in Slippery Rock last weekend, and only one point separated the teams.
IUP expected a strong, confident Slippery Rock, and that’s exactly what they faced in the first half. Slippery Rock is a good rucking team, and they committed IUP to the fringes with effective pick-and-goes. As the ball spread the field and sucked in more backs into the breakdown, the kick-and-chase game was unleashed, and IUP found itself struggling to close the gaps. That over-commitment in the rucks also stifled IUP’s offense, as realignment was slow. Slippery Rock was rewarded with a 26-12 lead into halftime.
“At halftime, we all came together and … understood that if we weren’t up on their line quickly, then they would get that ball out fast and kill us on the outsides,” IUP President Jami Marsicano said. “We really dominated in the second half. The forwards were a lot more places where they needed to be, which really helped the line get situated.”
Freeing up the backline was key, because that’s where IUP is most dangerous. The team took every opportunity to swing the ball wide, looping and putting its wings into space. The pack also stepped up its game, stealing a few Slippery Rock scrums when scoring seemed imminent.
IUP spent the majority of the second half in Slippery Rock’s end and pulled to within four points as the final minutes of the game approached.
“The final play of the game was honestly one we will always remember,” Marsicano said. “Surprisingly, our whole team was calm. We knew we had the chance to score one more try, which is all we needed. We won on the final play of the game with three seconds left. There was a scrum … we won it. Some quick hands and then Becca Kephart, our prop, got possession and powered her way into the try zone. It is kind of blurry, so I do apologize!”
But the scoreboard was crystal clear; IUP eked out a 32-31 victory.
“They are always our biggest competition, and we truly love having the challenge every year,” Marsicano added.
The team recognized flanker Devon Etter and inside center Marsicano as players of the game, for leading when the team needed a charge and making those pivotal plays that helped change the flow of the game.
“I really want to commend the forwards,” Marsicano said. “They won almost every scrum as well as lineouts. They are a strong, tight eight, and we all rely on them a lot. It might be cliché, but I know for a fact that we would not have won if we didn't come together 15 as 1.”
IUP has two more league games against Clarion – which is also having a good season – and California of University of Pennsylvania, but expect to see the standings leader in DII playoffs once again.