On yesterday’s bright Florida Sunday, Stanford stepped onto the pitch knowing they had to be ready to play for their position in this year’s Final Four. Their opponent in the Elite Eight match was the West Chester team from Pennsylvania, one of only two NCAA Varsity Women’s Rugby teams in the country. Stanford dominated the game from the beginning, putting points on the board and allowing the subs to step up and make an impact in the second half. West Chester’s kicking game played right into the able hands of Stanford’s nimble back three, allowing several breakaway tries. Yet the determined West Chester team still managed to hold on and score two unconverted tries, putting 10 points on the board by the end of the match.
Fullback Jessica Watkins breaking away for a try (Photo by Sally Lanigan).
See pictures from the game here.
The Texas A&M Aggies came out ready to play in Saturday’s Sweet 16 playoff game. A&M scored a try in the first five minutes, putting Stanford down by seven. Stanford returned with freshman hooker Janae Grijalva scoring the first try of her career. Stanford flanker Crista Mendoza fought her way through multiple opponents to score another try. Scrumhalf Jackie Hwang also scored for Stanford, taking the ball around the blind side of the ruck. However, Texas A&M worked aggressively up the field and also managed to put several tries on the board.
Jackie on her way to a try. (Photo by Sally Lanigan)
In the second half, the Stanford team increased their focus and stepped up the play. Winger Ono Nseyo, center Carey Myslewski, and fullback Jessica Watkins all scored tries for Stanford. Stanford unfortunately lost another key player, as junior winger Lindsey Innes suffered a fractured fibula. Center/lock/utility player Nana Wilberforce stepped in to cover the wing position and took the ball in for a try after a spectacular catch ten meters off the line. Flyhalf Melissa Smit was 7 for 7 on conversions and also kicked for points off a penalty near the end of the second half. Texas A&M never gave up, fighting hard throughout the game and scoring a respectable 24 points, to result in a final score of 52-24.
In the Pacific Coast Championship game, Stanford women played against the only team they had lost to during the regular season, Chico State. You could feel the tension in the air as Stanford battled Chico not only to gain the #1 seed in the national sweet sixteen tournament, but also to reclaim their dignity after losing 3 players to injury in the last Chico game. Both teams came out strong with speed and physicality. Stanford scored first, but fought hard to keep the lead. The half-time score was 28-15. The second half was filled with more hard play and with only a few minutes to play, the Chico scrum half scored to bring the game into Chico’s reach: 35-29. Chico gained possession on the kick-off and kicked the ball down the field. Jessica Watkins, fullback, received the kick and ran toward the touch line to give the ball to Ono Nseyo, wing. As time was out, the entire team screamed for Nseyo to run out of bounds. Instead, Nseyo ran around 3 defenders and sprinted 75 meters to score a try and end the game. The final score was 42-29.
Stanford will be continuing on to the national sweet sixteen tournament in Gainesville, FL as the #1 seed, while Chico State will be going on to the national sweet sixteen tournament at Penn State as the #10 seed in what Goff on Rugby termed, “the bracket of death”.