Poised to pounce / Photo: Jackie Finlan
On Saturday, Life West contests its first-ever Women’s Premier League (WPL) match and it has traveled to Glendale, Colo., with heat. With perhaps one exception, there isn’t an unfamiliar name on the travel roster – whether a capped Eagle (there are seven), collegiate standout debuting in the senior 15s sphere, or multi-year veteran who propelled the Gladiatrix to these heights.
Some notable additions include the new-to-NorCal Hope Rogers in the front row, as well as Frieda Fetu’u, who has previously worn the flanker jersey for Berkeley. Recent collegiate standouts Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru (Lindenwood) and Emily Roskopf (Quinnipiac) start at outside center and wing, respectively, and if reserve Jett Hayward (Stanford) takes the pitch, it’ll be in the front row.
The experience leans toward the pack, with five of seven Eagles featuring in the forwards, while the backs are young. Sara Parsons has relocated from the loose forwards to flyhalf, and that is bound to be an influential move. Inside center Amy Naber Talei is the core of leadership in the backs, and she’ll connect with the aforementioned college grads, as well as Mexico international Karmin Macedo (Notre Dame College) and Leti Hingano, also of college age, out wide.
Glendale is in a similar space in that its roster is a relatively known entity with some new recruits. There are four Penn State graduates on the 23: second-year returners Gabby Cantorna, who slides over to flyhalf and takes up the captain role, and flanker Rachel Ehrecke; and newcomers Carly Waters, who relocated from New York, and recent grad and Eagle prop Az Nalbandian. Nalbandian will square off against two more Penn State alumnae – Rogers and Catie Benson – in the front row. Can you hear Lance Connolly’s hands clasp together in anticipation!?
One year out of Harvard, Maya Learned gets the start at loosehead alongside vice captain and Eagle Joanna Kitlinski. Jeanna Beard, who’d been earning her pay at hooker, slides back into the loose forwards, which also features the formerly retired Carmen Farmer. The Olympian is flexible, playing everywhere from lock to wing, and now takes up No. 8.
Cantorna teams up with scrumhalf Kelsie O’Brien, who is one year-plus out of the Air Force Academy but has multiple years with Glendale. They launch a known backline – with the exception of inside center Amanda Hull, who spent last year scoring double-digit tries for DII KC Jazz. Looking at the reserves, UTC graduate and collegiate standout Ally Schrenker has moved to Colorado, as has Brazil’s Beatriz Amaral, courtesy of Beard’s stellar recruitment.
So much intrigue in this match, making it a perfect season-opener. Stay tuned for reportage.