“It was the one game where we were disconnected. You get one a year and unfortunately it was in the final.”
“Disconnected” is how head Coach Jonathan Griffin characterized Stanford’s performance in the 2007 USA Rugby Collegiate National Championship. And it is true, Stanford’s team stepped onto the field a bit nervous in their re-match with rival Penn State. With several key players just returning from injury or still on the sidelines, Stanford’s roster had seen many changes in the past weeks and months. But the squad as a whole and many younger players had stepped up to play at a higher level, proving their prowess in the games leading up to the final. However, on that Sunday, something within the team just didn’t click and Stanford was unable to perform.
Penn State, a most worthy adversary who had been training extremely hard all year for this moment, took advantage of Stanford’s hesitance to pound down the sides of breakdowns and scrums with their larger forwards, scoring two early tries. Stanford was disjointed and flustered, and Penn State ended the first half on top, 17-0. Even well into the second half, the Stanford team couldn’t get its head straight, and with 10 minutes to go Penn State was leading 22-0.
Then suddenly something clicked with the Stanford team, and what was at stake finally sunk in. Power flankers Crista Mendoza and Diana Peng made a break down the left side of the field, gathering momentum despite the knock on that resulted. Wing Carey Myslewski and center Olivia Anglade built on the momentum, stringing together two tries within minutes.
Wing Carey Myslewski evading a defender (Photo by Dobson Images)
Center Melissa Smit made both conversions, including one amazing kick from the touchline. With seconds to go, fullback Jessica Watkins brought the ball in for another try under the posts, and Smit reliably converted. With one more minute, Stanford might yet have ended the game on top. But they had waited too long, and their time was up. Penn State ended the day victorious, 22-21.
Melissa Smit’s kicking prowess earned 6 points for Stanford (Photo by Dobson Images)