STANFORD, Calif. – Mary Washington responded to every Cal State, Northridge, attack and defeated the Matadors, 36-22, in the Women’s Division II Final to become the National Champion Sunday at Steuber Rugby Stadium.
The Matadors struck first in the third minute of the match with a try from Ciarra Waters-Mullen, but Brianna Berling leveled the score a few minutes later. From a scrum 10 meters from the Cal State try line, the Mary Washington centers played a neat one-two and a skip pass from Ashley Buxton hit Elyssa McClain. A scrum later in the attack was won by Mary Washington and Berling dotted down for the try.
Kristina Rader gave Mary Washington the lead in the 21st minute with a run through the Matadors’ defense. Sophia Therriault converted the try to extend the lead to 12-5.
The ensuing restart was given up by Mary Washington and it took less than a minute for the Matadors to capitalize. Kristina Koufos sent the ball Evelyn Avila’s way for a try in the corner, which drew Northridge within two points at 12-10.
The Matadors had trouble with Mary Washington’s scrum during the entirety of the match and conceded a try in the 32nd minute because of it. The ball came out of the scrum to Buxton, who dummied a few defenders with a fading run across the pitch. An onrushing McClain gave her the perfect option, and the winger made it count with a try next to the sticks. The conversion failed, keeping the Matadors within striking distance at halftime, down 17-10.
Rader scored her second try of the match seven minutes into the second half when an ill-advised Northridge clearance kick fell to the flyhalf. Rader got the ball in the middle of the pitch, ran to the outside, and cut inside two defenders for a straight shot to the posts, giving Mary Washington a 22-10 lead.
Rader was not the only Mary Washington player to score a brace – Berling scored her second try in the 61st minute after another scrum wheeled the Matadors around the try line. Therriault successfully kicked her second of two conversions to extend the lead to 29-10.
Gabrielle Schmaeling found space between the Mary Washington defense at midfield two minutes later but did not look for her support, which would have given her an open option on the wing. Though she was tackled, the Matadors came to her rescue and benefitted from a Mary Washington penalty to find the try zone through Waters-Mullen.
The Matadors kept the ball away from Mary Washington for a bit longer and cut the deficit to 29-22 thanks to another penalty in favor of Northridge. Trailing by a converted try with 10 minutes remaining, the Matadors smelled blood. Another clearance kick, however, gave Rader another opportunity to exploit space on the pitch. The Women’s Division II Most Valuable Player completed her hat trick performance by fending off three tackles and pushing away another defender at the try line. She converted the try, too, and gave Mary Washington the 36-22 victory.
Mary Washington’s win against Florida International Sunday was labeled an upset, but the defeat of Cal State, Northridge, proved the team to be a deserving champion.
In the Women’s Division II Third-Place Match, Victoria Wagner gave Indiana (PA) a 7-0 lead before Rayehanna Salkey drew Florida International within two points just prior to the half.
The Panthers scored two more within fifteen minutes of the second-half kickoff and could have had more if it were not for a multitude of ball-handling errors. Scrum after scrum gifted Indiana life, and two tries in the final 15 minutes of the match sealed the 19-17 win for the Tooters.