Mud-lathered North Shore is heading to the DI semis. /// Photo courtesy Chicago North Shore
The weather between the two club playoff sites contrasted starkly, as Tucson enjoyed sun and warmth, and Pittsburgh battled rain and mud. Consequently, the eastern teams played a little tighter, weathered handling errors and lots of scrums, and western teams were able to play wider and had some wind with which to play. Nonetheless, exciting quarterfinals unfolded, and the DI and DII semifinals promise to continue the trend.
Santa Monica gave defending DI champion Seattle all it could handle in the DI quarterfinals, but the Saracens pulled away for a 37-17 victory and berth to the semifinals. Standout performances from halfback Elena Cantorna, No. 8 Chelsey Sveinsson and multi-try-scorer Kala Clanton, who entered the game as a substitute, highlighted a good team game that ran on support. The Dolphins were not short on speed, as players like Lucia Tin and Whitney Vance demonstrated, and had stellar bench support, too – like Rebecca Hearn, who used excellent footwork to score a try. Seattle was able to finish its breaks a little better, and that meant twice as many tries.
Arguably the best game in Arizona came from Denver Black Ice against the Austin Valkyries. It was difficult to gauge the Colorado team, which is the only squad in the Frontier region and took mixed squads to tournaments and friendlies this spring. With the full team assembled and ready, the Black Ice asserted its contender status with a 34-15 win over Austin.
The Valkyries took the first lead when center Claire Tilton scored and flyhalf Jordan Ynostrosa converted. Black Ice scrumhalf Lin Hill put her side on the board with the first of her three tries. She went on to win MVP. Ynostrosa added a penalty, and then Denver took the 15-10 lead after back-to-back tries from wing Blaine Martin and Lin.
The second half added another two tries, as outside center Kemi Adewunmi (whose twin sister, Kunbi, plays fullback) and inside center Mary Hanks crossed Austin’s try line, and Lin’s conversions made it 34-10. Austin ran in one more try in the final quarter, but it was all Denver in the second half.
In Pittsburgh, Chicago North Shore held Beantown to a score per half during its 29-8 quarterfinal victory today. Noby Takaki, Gabby Whittinghill, Yuli Garcia, Brittany Klimek and Colleen Canniff dotted down the tries, while Whittinghill handled the kicks. Tomorrow, North Shore faces Raleigh, which slugged it out with Boston for a 12-5 quarterfinal victory.
Raleigh contained its scoring to within three minutes – tries on either side of the half – but it was enough for the victory in a really tight contest. During the last play of the first half, Raleigh attempted to breach Boston’s goal line defense – that’s when No. 8 Tonya Fletcher opted for the wider pass to center Jennifer Larrimore, who had the angle and room to score the game’s first try. Flyhalf Chelsea Garber kicked the conversion to the end the half 7-0.
Garber got the second half rolling quickly, peeling away from a midfield scrum and slipping through tackles for the breakaway try, 12-0. Boston prevented the shutout in the waning minutes.
Pittsburgh got started with the well paired Burlington and Harrisburg in the DII quarterfinals. The teams traded first-half tries, but Harlots flanker Cortney Kolak kicked a penalty while Burlington converted its try, giving Harrisburg an 8-7 lead into halftime.
Fifty-five minutes in, Harrisburg No. 8 Michelle Kirk muscled across the try line for her second score on the day (13-7). The loose forward was the epitome of “lead by example,” and she linked well with flyhalf Georgia Goodman, who kept the team calm and focused.
That direction was needed in the fourth quarter, when Burlington picked up momentum. After mauling across a try, the Vermonters took a 15-13 lead off a Bolton Littleton penalty with fewer than 10 minutes remaining.
“We knew we could do it,” Harrisburg scrumhalf Erin Strelec reflected on the late-game deficit. “We came together and reminded everyone that we needed to play our game. We focused on our mantra of playing together as a cohesive unit. That we needed to stay focused on playing strong team rugby. ‘With each other, for each other,’ and it allowed us to be calm and pull it out.”
Harrisburg responded right from the kickoff, blazing into Burlington’s 22 meter and finally capitalizing with an Emily McHenry try in the corner, 18-15.
Burlington made its way back into scoring position, but the penalties and handling errors that had marked the game killed any opportunity to alter the scoreline.
Harrisburg will play defending DII champion Wisconsin tomorrow in the semifinals. Wisconsin didn’t have trouble moving the ball across Charlotte in its 67-12 quarterfinal win today, and put away finishers like wings Justine Wypych (3) and Felicia Carlson (2) and fullback Sybil Levine away for tries. Prop Sarah Thomas and scrumhalf Kris Peterson (2) also scored, while Elisa Becker handled the conversion and penalty kicks.
In Tucson, Life West defeated Ventura 62-29 in today’s quarterfinals and will play Houston Athletic, which topped KC Jazz 46-26 today. The Gladiatrix played good running rugby that was built on support and highlighted some one-on-one advantages. Try-scorers included Cameo Motley, Angelina Lomu, Megan Foster, Megan Pinson and Hali Deters, and Foster (the player of the match) handled the majority of conversions. Ventura did take advantage of Life West’s lapses, however, and turned over ball in the scrum and on the ground. Inside center Julie Gould ran some hard, angled lines for tries, and Vanessa Alvarez, Danielle Robottom and Corey Lott were also impressive.
DI CLUB QUARTERFINALS
Raleigh 12-5 Boston
Chicago North Shore 29-8 Beantown
Seattle 37-17 Santa Monica
Denver Black Ice 34-15 Austin
SF: Raleigh vs. Chicago North Shore
SF: Seattle vs. Denver Black Ice
DII CLUB QUARTERFINALS
Harrisburg 18-15 Burlington
Wisconsin 67-19 Charlotte
Life West 62-29 Ventura
Houston Athletic 46-26 KC Jazz
SF: Harrisburg vs. Wisconsin
SF: Life West vs. Houston Athletic