Salomon, seen here at 2017 nationals, captains New York’s backs / Photo: WPL Rugby
Week two of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) saw defending champion New York and runner-up Glendale play their first games of the regular season last weekend. Both teams had to hit the road, with New York heading to Atlanta and the Merlins hopping over to San Diego.
A high-scoring game evolved in Georgia, and it took two late tries to put some distance on the scoreboard – 50-38 to New York. Co-captain Jenn Salomon, who serves alongside forwards leader Tahlia Brody, explained that the outing was typical of first games, as chemistry was a big focus, and work-ons and insight into strengths emerged. The game also marked Andrew Britt’s first outing as the new head coach.
“Atlanta brought a fast-paced game compared to last year, across the entire team: dynamic attacking structure, especially great ball movement, and an impressive offload game with support lines, which we struggled to defend,” Salomon reviewed the Harlequins, who now have former Glendale head coach Kitt Ruiz behind the clipboard. “Their forwards were able to identify gaps off the ruck as well which provided great go-forward.”
Of the 20 players who were rostered for Saturday’s game, eight were named to the 2017 national championship game.
“Misha Green is always hungry for more,” Salomon pointed to Saturday standouts. “She’s always at 110% nonstop in everything that she does. Strong, fast, powerful. She had many great breaks in the middle of the field, two that were tries, giving us that push we needed to keep momentum when we had it.
“Alycia Washington’s impactful carries led to constant breaks in the gain line,” the fullback continued. “[The Eagle lock has a] high work rate and leads the forwards in defense.”
Salomon and flyhalf Kristen Siano were the only backs who returned from the 2017 title-winning team and played in Atlanta; however, more returners will likely feature in home games. Saturday’s lineup saw several WPL debuts, including:
- AIC graduate Shamira Robles (wing), a New York native, who is in the College All-American 7s system and shined as New York’s playmaker at club 7s nationals;
- inside center Nikki Richardson, the former All-American and Stanford flyhalf, who has been playing 15s in New Haven, Conn., but has 7s experience in New York and with the Northeast Academy;
- outside center Tiana-Malia Kawaihoa-Marquez, a Hawaii native, who has put in time at Chula Vista and the Santa Barbara Rugby Academy;
- Northeastern graduate Sarah Levy (wing), one of several Northeast Academy members on New York and who was also a stellar impact player at club 7s nationals; and
- Carly Waters, an All-American and Penn State scrumhalf, who came on in the second half.
“Sarah Levy on her urgent chases on kicks and support lines off the forwards,” Salomon highlighted a Saturday standout. “She didn’t have many offensive opportunities but when she did she capitalized on them. Defensively she was all over the field, making some try-saving tackles. She’s a great athlete with speed and shiftiness. I’m excited to see her grow with New York in the next few months.”
The opposing back line also ran young, with three recent graduates (Penn State’s Corinne Heavner, Central Florida’s Cortney Kuehl, Life’s Kaitlyn Broughton) bringing new life to the Quins.
“Cortney Kuehl first capitalized on a penalty to score the first try right under the posts,” Salomon acknowledged the opposition. “A threat on attack, she led Atlanta with line breaks, which created opportunities for her teammates to play off of. A very hard runner with speed. Also, Mo Compito’s speed and agility are always something to watch out for, great defensive pressure on her part.”
New York will host the D.C. Furies, which enjoyed a bye week after defeating Twin Cities 33-31 in week one.
Glendale, too, has a nice contingent of collegiate graduates who relocated to the Rocky Mountain region: Davenport University’s Dani Ordway and Hannah Tennant (Michigan natives), Penn State’s Rachel Ehrecke (Iowa native), and Air Force Academy scrumhalf Kelsie O’Brien, who took advantage of the collegiate/club waiver last year as a senior, among others. Like New York, the game in San Diego marked Luke Gross’ first game as the WPL team’s new head coach.
Jarrod Faul returned to San Diego and the team was coming off a close loss to Berkeley in week one. The Surfers were ready to harness the energy that comes with a home opener.
“We took the lead pretty early on in the game and kept it going through the first half. We were executing getting the ball wide really well and it paid off,” San Diego inside center and kicker Megan Foster explained the 26-5 first half. “We also had some hard-hitting forwards in the middle of the field that kept Glendale honest most of the game.”
But Glendale was able to regroup and take advantage of some San Diego missteps, resulting in three second-half tries that secured a bonus-try standings point in the 31-22 final.
“We lost that momentum in the second half, however, when we got a yellow card. We were scored on during that time, so being down a player definitely affected us,” Foster continued. “Glendale also did a good job at not allowing us to strike through the middle of the field. Most tries this match were scored on the edges of the pitch and we are lucky to have players like Tia Blythe and Lauren Bisbin out wide to finish tries for us.”
Brisbin was particularly effective, finishing off three series for tries. For the full list of point-scorers this WPL season, click here. For a full weekend wrap-up, read The Rugby Breakdown’s article on USA Rugby.