Photo courtesy Vassar College Athletics
Every champion, every final, every team has a story, and they’re all worth telling. Vassar had its story, too, returning to the USA Rugby DII College Fall Championship after a two-point defeat the year prior. The Brewers got its chance at redemption and won the 2018 fall trophy, but it’s the means by which Vassar won that is insisting upon a place among the Top 10 Moments of 2018-19 Season thus far.
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It’s reiterated because it’s true: The best a team can do, especially when scouting information is scarce, is focus on executing its game plan and to do so better than its opponent. Vassar College was *the* example of faith in and dedication to a strategy, which was both obvious and yet so effective throughout the fall en route to the final.
Both semifinal and final opponents knew that Vassar was going to win its game through the experienced forwards. That knowledge is useful if opponents figure out ways to frustrate hard carriers like Oshana Reich, Kate Sworden and Kaitlin Prado; tire the diligent support; or find means to turn over possession. Otherwise, defenses had to wait for Vassar to err and then use that opportunity to pounce.
But incredibly, the Brewers – on back-to-back days – pledged itself to a consistent, meter-by-meter phase game, and repeatedly showed they could march down the field for tries.
But Vassar didn’t own the first half of the fall final. Winona State, the 2017 fall champion, is a class outfit and only trailed 17-13 into the break.
“The first half was a battle and that kind of competition is exactly what we as a team thrive on,” Vassar scrumhalf Jennie To, the general, explained. “The fight between every incremental point difference was exhilarating. At halftime, the main thing we talked about was increasing the speed of our picks, in order to give the defense less time to set up, and the lack of hesitation in our attack definitely made a difference in the second half.”
The adjustments paid off and Vassar pulled away for a 50-13 victory. It wasn’t the sexiest of games, but the Brewers marked it as their own and executed it with devotion.
“It still feels surreal,” To concluded. “Winning the national championship made every muddy tackling practice, every injury and every moment of hard work this season – and for me and my fellow seniors, these past four years – completely worth it. We are so incredibly proud to have done this together.”
Congrats to the whole Vassar team and staff for ending the year with a punch!