Top College Clubs Set for Finals


PALO ALTO, Calif. (Photo taken by Tim Mickiewicz)– Following an extremely physical and competitive day of rugby at the USA Rugby National Guard College Club Championships, the four Division I teams have been narrowed down to just two men’s and women’s finalists today at Stanford University’s Steuber Rugby Stadium.  

In the first match of the day, the top-seeded Penn State University beat the fifth-seeded Brown University in the Women’s Division I semifinal.

In a match that was much closer than what the score reflects, Brown actually scored first against the Nittany Lions, when Thalia Beaty touched one down in the 23rd minute. Katharine Glerum converted and Brown briefly held its only lead of the game.

The score must have spurred the PSU Women a bit, as they came back and scored two tries within four minutes and finished the half up by five.

“We knew Brown was going to be a good team going into it,” PSU’s captain Lauren Rosso said following the match. “We just had to calm down and control the breakdown. We were playing a bit sloppy at the start of the game and had to refocus a bit and concentrate on what we could control.”
 
In the second half, it was all Penn State, as Lauren Rosso scored her second try of the match, and Aleana Kuhn put down two of her own. In the end, Penn State University was able to finish with a fairly convincing 41-7 final score.

In the second women’s DI semifinal, Stanford was able to secure a hard-fought victory over Navy. Again Navy was the first on the board after Breanna Strand kicked a penalty goal to put Navy up by three. Stanford quickly recovered though, as Jennifer Cooperrider kicked off the Cardinals scoring run that ended with Jessica Watkins touching down the first of her four tries. At half, Stanford was up 12-3 over Navy.

Navy came back from the half and scored twice, before Watkins stole the show and gave Stanford the footing it needed to clinch the 40-20 victory over the sixth-seeded Navy Women’s Team.

“We had a hard time winning at the breakdown,” Stanford’s Head Coach Jonathan Griffin said. “We weren’t aggressive enough and Navy played fantastic in that area of the game.

We want to get the ball in hand and move it out. That’s our type of game and we will have to do that that from start to finish tomorrow against PSU.”

Stanford and Penn State face off in the Championship finals for the fourth year in a row tomorrow. Last year, was the first time in the past few years that PSU was able to walk away with the title over Stanford and both teams are looking forward to the rematch.

In the men’s DI semifinals, the top-ranked University of California –Berkeley Team met their match against the fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s Team, and although they still walked away the victor, the Golden Bears found themselves in a rare position against their Northern California opponent.

Cal started strong, scoring 26 points in the first 30 minutes, before Saint Mary’s could adjust and answer back. By halftime, Saint Mary’s had made a bit of a dent, but were still trailing by 17 points.

In the second half, it was much of the same, as Cal came out strong and Saint Mary’s adjusted accordingly. In fact, Saint Mary’s outscored Cal 19 to 12 in the second half and narrowed the margin to within 10 points as the clock wound down, ending the match with a 41-31 final score – the closest Cal has seen from a domestic collegiate competitor in over two years.

“We are happy to advance to the finals,” Cal Head Coach Jack Clark said following the match. “Saint Mary’s is a very good side.”

Interestingly enough, when asked if there was anything that he would try to change heading into the final match on Saturday, which will be against BYU for their third year in a row, Clark admitted there wasn’t.

“We’ve had four months of analyzing every performance,” Clark said. “There’s no training sessions here. At this point it’s just about waking up and playing the game we know.”

For BYU, however, head coach David Smyth still plans on improving and changing up the game plan as the Cougars head into the final match against Cal. BYU beat the University of Colorado in the last match of the day to advance and once again meet the perennial favorite, Golden Bears, in the finals.  In a fairly convincing win, BYU was able to avenge their last meeting with CU and beat the Buffs 42-13 and now look forward to marking a first in their programs history, and notch a win over Cal in the finals.

CU’s Maximo De Achaval scored all of his team’s points in the Buff’s semifinal match against BYU. De Achaval also scored in every way possible, by dropkicking, touching down, converting and making a penalty goal, marking a total of 13 points in CU’s loss to the second-seeded team.

“Our team never let up,” De Achaval said. “I think that is a testament to what kind of guys we have in this program. We’ve been training 3-4 times a week and even when we knew we couldn’t lose one more match, the team continued to believe in itself and work hard until the end.”

The Buff’s appearance at the National Championships marks their first in over 20 years, and although they lost to BYU in the semifinals, this will no doubt be a season they all remember.

“This club and rugby in general has been so good to me,” De Achaval added. “I will definitely keep playing and striving to play at the highest levels.”

As Colorado’s season ends, BYU will move on to face Cal as the Golden Bears try to secure their fifth title in a row and their 17th title in the past 20 years.

Watch the Men’s title match at 5 p.m. right after the Women’s DI match featuring Stanford’s home team take on PSU at 3 p.m. Get to the pitch early, to watch the University of Minnesota – Duluth take on Shippensburg in the Division II Women’s Championship match at 11 a.m., while Radford takes on Utah Valley State in the Division II Men’s title match at 1 p.m.

For more information on the USA Rugby National Guard College Club Championships, please visit www.usarugby.org or contact Sara John at sjohn at usarugby dot org.

USA Rugby National Guard College Club Championships
Friday, May 2, 2008

DI Women’s Semifinals
PSU 41, Brown 7
Stanford 40, Navy 20

DI Men’s Semifinals
Cal 41, Saint Mary’s 31
BYU 42, CU 13

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