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Coast Guard Bears Down on DII Finals

  • 28 Nov 2018

(seated, l-r) captain Waddell, president Jill Friedman, captain Harrison / Photos: JJ Fagan 

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is days away from its third-straight appearance in the USA Rugby DII College Fall Championship semifinals in Charlotte, N.C. The Bears finished fourth in 2016, third in 2017, and are now looking to crack into that championship game with a young but driven squad.

RELATED: Preview: DII Winona State • Preview: DII CincinnatiSupport TRB: Donate Today!

“Going into the season and having a heavy blow from losing so many players, it was uncertain how things would shake out, and the team was full of nerves about the upcoming season,” Coast Guard forwards captain Hannah Waddell referenced the nine starters who graduated last spring. “However, going as far as we have this season and outperforming all expectations, our confidence in the team to do well is very high.”

No. 8 Waddell and flyhalf Kiera Harrison embraced their roles as forwards and backs captains, respectively, and looked after 40-plus teammates who are well distributed throughout the classes. Last year’s B side players readied themselves for starting positions, while some new faces added unexpected punch to the Bears’ lineup.

“Freshman Ari Jurkowski as inside center seems as though she has been playing for years even though this is her first season,” Waddell praised the 4/C. “It is going to be fun to watch her grow and improve as a player over these next four years.”

But perhaps the most influential change occurred on the coaching staff. Joining head coach Bill Anderson and long-timer John McCormick, LT Clare Dorsey and LT Danielle Brown lent their expertise to the back line, while Sarah Price worked with the forwards.

“With their new perspectives it has helped integrate backs and forwards in a way that many teams don’t and can’t. It allows for a more strategic organization and fluid movement on the field,” Waddell explained. “We always have Chief Anderson and John McCormick returning as the backbone of the team to help all the new changes have a strong foundation.”

As Coast Guard worked through the DII New England Wide conference, the young squad proved itself to be both motivated and disciplined, and another undefeated season unfolded. The Bears contested its Fall Round of 32 match against Syracuse, and hosted the Upstate New York team in a 67-10 win. The Connecticut team then traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (home to Coast Guard’s fall semifinal opponent) to headline the Mid-Atlantic pool of the Fall Round of 16. The academy side knocked off Tri-State runner-up Fairfield 61-5 on day one and then the following day eliminated Mid-Atlantic champion Bloomsburg 65-7 in the fall quarterfinals.

“Hayden Short, one of our locks, attended the summer training camp for the Eagles and has been a huge help this season with taking the team to the next level both on the field and in practice,” Waddell noted some standout performances at regional playoffs and the season as a whole. “Hollis Roush, our fullback, has been deadly in games with her speed, skill, and smart playing. Also, her conversions have helped drive up the scores throughout the season with some kicks that seemed impossible.”

Coast Guard is now readying for the trip to Charlotte, N.C., and will face familiar foe Vassar College in Saturday’s fall semifinals. On the other side of the bracket is reigning champion Winona State and Cincinnati. Both of these match-ups are repeats of 2017, meaning teams are heading into the final stages with a little more intel and opportunities for redemption.

“Vassar is definitely going to be a challenging game but it should also be fun to see who comes out on top,” Waddell looked toward Saturday. “Seeing their scores against Maine and Fairfield, which were similar or identical to our own, it seems that the match-up is going to be anybody’s game. Regardless of our opponent though, we know our girls are going to bring the intensity and heart that they always play with.”

Games will be live-streamed via FloRugby:

2 p.m. Winona State vs. Cincinnati

4 p.m. Vassar vs. Coast Guard


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