Seattle is heading back to the DI club national championship, and the path has been similar to the team’s 2015 title run. The Saracens had to go through Santa Monica and Denver once again, and while both encounters produced wins, the on-field experience was different.
“We played both teams last year and have a great deal of respect for both,” Seattle coach Tim Zern said. “They’re well coached and kept their heads in the games.”
The seeds swapped this post-season, so Seattle played the Pacific South’s Dolphins in the quarterfinals and Frontier’s Black Ice in Sunday’s semifinals.
“We played [Santa Monica] last year and beat them soundly. This year, they were much better and put us under a lot of pressure,” Zern contrasted 2015’s 47-0 victory with Saturday’s 37-17 result. “There were a few minutes there where we were nervous, and it could’ve gone either way. They played great, I was very impressed with their increased ability.”
“We were a little bit rusty to start the match on Saturday and had some execution issues,” Zern said. “We were a little too quick to offload. There were some 50/50 passes that could have been better decisions in that moment and kept continuity better.
“We talked about it a lot on Saturday – trusting that someone will ruck over and recycle the ball,” the coach added. “For Sunday, it was about keeping it simple and trusting each other to do their jobs.”
Denver Black Ice advanced to the semifinals after a 34-15 win over Austin Saturday. It was as tough a game as Seattle played, however, the Saracens brought a roster packed with starters, and that flexibility allowed some key decision-makers rest on Saturday.
But those advantages did not play out immediately. Denver was fired up, finding gaps and making meters. But once the game settled into a flow, Seattle pulled ahead, running in five first-half tries.
“All of the coaches and players were more pleased today,” Zern said. “We didn’t give them much ball in the first 40 and stayed on the front foot on attack.”
Outside center Mackenzie Garrett, flyhalf Kati Lee, wing Sara Nester (2) and loose forward Zahra Young accounted for the first-half scores, while Lee added a conversion.
The second half was more even, and Denver outscored Seattle 14-7, sending prop Drea Trejo and outside center Kemi Adewunmi across for tries. Saturday’s MVP, scrumhalf Lin Hill, added two conversions. Fullback Megan Jansky-Bingel broke up Denver’s two scores, capping a 32-14 victory and trip to the final.
Seattle will attempt to defend its DI title against Chicago North Shore in fewer than two weeks. There is little familiarity between the two teams – save one player and a desire to hoist a trophy in Glendale, Colo.
DI CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
QF: Raleigh 12-5 Boston
QF: Chicago North Shore 29-8 Beantown
QF: Denver Black Ice 34-15 Austin
QF: Seattle 37-17 Santa Monica
SF: Chicago North Shore 24-15 Raleigh
SF: Seattle 32-14 Denver Black Ice
Cons: Austin 55-36 Santa Monica
Cons: Boston 24-8 Beantown