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DII Spring Championship Set

  • 23 Apr 2016

Humboldt and Tulane move onto the final.


The DII college spring championship is set: Tulane plays Humboldt on Sunday for the berth to the national final against Davenport on May 7.


The semifinals opener pit post-season veteran Humboldt against newcomer University of Southern California. Despite the relative inexperience, the Trojans brought the heat early on, challenging the Lumberjacks to find their rhythm.


“We were a little nervous in the first few minutes and it stayed close,” Humboldt player-coach Meredith Conrad-Forrest said. “After 20 minutes, we were able to pick up the pace and start working as a team.”


Humboldt outside center Lila Bell kicked a penalty and No. 8 Libby Treu dotted down the game’s first try in minute 16 to lead 8-0. With fewer than 10 minutes in the half, Humboldt was yellow-carded, and USC made good use of the player advantage, sending lock Joyce Chuinkam across for the first of her two tries, 8-5.


A key shift in momentum occurred in the waning moments, however, as Humboldt, still a player down, saw Treu pull away and pop to Bell for the half’s final score. The Lumberjacks entered the half up 13-5.


“We were unfortunate to get that yellow card, but we worked hard to bring it back together and score in that time,” Conrad-Forrest said. “At halftime we had a good conversation about putting our heart into it and playing 15 as 1. We did a better job of supporting each and we pulled away in the second half.”


USC was still very much in the game, and scored two more tries through prop Alexis Bradby and Chuinkam. But Humboldt had found ways to neutralize the Trojans’ strengths.


“Their backs were dynamic and moved the ball well, but we were able to shut them down out wide so they couldn’t use their wings,” Conrad-Forrest said. “They had a stronger scrum than we’re used to encountering but we were able to win our ball back and contest some, too.”


Humboldt kept its shape as some key positions shifted. A hand injury saw regular flyhalf Kiana Hargreaves move to flanker, moving Conrad-Forrest to center and pushing Jordan Ludtke to flyhalf. The forwards continued to run hard and controlled the contact area, working the ball back cleanly to scrumhalf Jasmine Phiengsai. The captain did an excellent job of managing the game and staying vocal throughout. As the loose forwards flowed into the backline, the overloads formed out wide, where Bell and Conrad-Forrest (2) were able to score. Treu added her second try as well, and Bell kicked the game’s only conversion for the 40-15 win.

What will likely end up as the game of the weekend then followed: Tulane vs. Salisbury. The Maryland team took a 12-0 lead as lock Kathryn Todorovich and Jessica Werth crossed for tries in the first quarter. Flyhalf Jess Barnhart added the first of her three conversions.


Tulane then owned the second quarter, putting inside center Maddie Brenner and wing Ashley Prusak into the try zone, with fullback Erica Maker slotting the extras, 12-all into the half.


Four tries were then scored over the course of five minutes. Barnhart sandwiched Tulane’s back-to-back scores from scrumhalf Brittany Dykes and lock Clare Sullivan with two converted tries of her own. By minute 60, Salisbury led 26-24.


Salisbury added a Kaelin Hursh try (31-24) for some cushion, but with five minutes remaining, Tulane outside center Gwendolyn Leifer dotted down and Maker’s conversion tied it up, 31 all. That tie held through regulation and the game moved into overtime.


The extra 20 minutes belonged to Tulane. The South rep piled on four tries through Dykes, wing Elena Garidis, prop Alexandra Clarke and reserve Alayna Kuhlman to win 53-31.


“They definitely look like they have fire in their bellies,” Conrad-Forrest said from the sideline. “They look like a tough opponent, but lucky for us, they had to play longer today. We’ll be ready.”


The spring championship will occur at 11 a.m. PDT at Davis, Calif. Stay tuned for on-site reportage.


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