Senior Shiyan Koh recaps Stanford Women’s Rugby National Championship Victory :
What else is there left to say when the reporters have all filed their stories and we are left to contemplate the weekend alone, or rather all together at the Oasis?
We sailed into the Pacific Coast Playoffs confident from five days of training camp in British Columbia. Matched up against the University of Oregon in the first match, we were urged by our coach to “let our own light shine, [because in doing so] we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” And in that match, we let our light shine as we demolished Oregon 93 – 0. We were riding high as we entered the second match against Chico, who we had defeated earlier in the regular season. In a match that was decided in the final 30 seconds, we lost against a team that wanted it more than us. It was a timely lesson that we would repeatedly return to as we progressed through the tournament. As a consequence of the loss, we were seeded 10th in the national tournament, and would face UC San Diego in the round of 16, the undefeated 7th seed.
The challenge at Sweet 16s, was for the forwards to work hard and make a difference. Each morning, the tight five was individually challenged to raise their work rate and we overcame UC San Diego 22-5 to earn a place in the Elite 8. The University of Virginia, seeded 2nd, brought its own challenges with its heavy pack. The match did not start well as both teams repeatedly scored and at the half, we were down 27-19. At halftime, Griff reminded us that words meant nothing if we didn’t do anything, and it seemed as if a new team walked onto the pitch that second half as we beat UVa 43-27.
Returning to Stanford for the Final IV presented its own set of problems. The home field advantage was somewhat muted by the demands of schoolwork as everyone struggled to catch up on everything they missed while in Florida. It was a rather distracted and tired team that came together Thursday night before the match against Princeton. Sequestered at the Creekside Inn, Griff and assistant Coach Heather Smith (HP), brought the focus back to the task at hand. Guest appearances by Katrina Logan (’03, National U-23 player) and Sarita Ocon (’04) served to reinforce the message that we were here to win. Getting to the Final IV was not enough.
Princeton (seeded 3rd) had made it to the championship game last year, and would prove to be a worthy opponent. We scored early with a penalty kick, but Princeton answered quickly with a try. As we settled into the half, inside center Melissa Smit scored off a great run by flyhalf Jossy Tseng, lock Ellen Gray scored off a lineout maul, and outside center Olivia Anglade scored of a grubber to leave us up 20-5 at the half. Despite a brilliant first half, the intensity let down in the second, as we allowed Princeton to score thrice, but as time ran out, we escaped with the win, 27-22.
Finally – we faced Penn State, number 1 seed in the country, defending champions, with a large and industrious pack. The tight five are urged once again to work hard and the tone for the match is set in the third minute as outside center Olivia Anglade scores with a 60m run. The team takes off as wing Carey Myslewski scores twice off passes from fullback Kelsey Lynn and outside center Olivia Anglade. Penn State responds with a penalty kick, but that is all they will earn that half as Stanford finishes with a try from scrumhalf Erica Hanson who is driven over the try line by the pack, and another try from Olivia Anglade who scores from 75m out off a stolen pass. Halftime score 29-3. Humbled by the previous day’s slowing of intensity, the team vowed to hit 50 points, everyone urging their teammates not to be content.
Fullback Kelsey Lynn advances the ball 50m sidestepping numerous defenders allowing wing Carey Myselwski to score her third try of the day. In the final twenty minutes, the Cardinal would score thrice more. Penn State pick up a drop goal towards the end of the match, but its too little too late as Stanford prevail, 53-6.
It has been a crazy ride, from having no coach in the fall, to Griff’s arrival in late January, from 5 rainy and bruising days in Vancouver, Canada, to losing to Chico in the Pac Coast Playoffs, and finally the past two weeks of competition in Florida and at home here at Stanford. For all forty-nine girls on the team, these past sixteen weeks have been a whirlwind of practice, weights, sprint sessions, video sessions, swiping cards at Tressider and Ford, setting up for other teams’ meets, and scrambling to find every fundraising opportunity available. But to be able to stand in the Oasis Saturday night, with everyone who has been so central to this program – our coach Griff; Colleen Chelini and Heather Bristow our trainers, and to sing rugby songs and recount every great tackle, every amazing try, and to be able to say, there were no “what ifs” this year – that has made everything worthwhile.