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Stanford Endures Tough Double-Header

  • 11 Feb 2019
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All photos: Jackie Finlan / TRB

Stanford (3-2) played its first double-header weekend of the DI Pacific Mountain Rugby Conference but was fortunate to separate the games by 36 hours and contest both at Steuber Rugby Stadium. On Friday, the Cardinal took on UC Davis (3-0), which was coming off a win against reigning DI spring champion Chico State, and then recouped for a Sunday morning game against Humboldt State (0-3).

Both Stanford and UC Davis scored four tries apiece, two in each half, during Friday’s game. The Cardinal went up 12-0 before Prai Harris and Sammy Kerrigan answered with tries, and Kerrigan hit the first of four conversions, 14-12 to Davis. The lead changed four more times, and a try from Davis rookie Ashley Alvarez tied it up 26-26 with little time on the clock, and Kerrigan’s extras supplied the winning margin: 28-26 to Davis.

UC Davis coach Gary Gordon noted Stanford’s commitment to the pick-and-go game, a necessity for the soupy pitch and wet ball, but the strategy played well on Sunday in drier conditions.

“It was a tough game, but a good game,” Stanford No. 8 Anna Park said of Friday. “I feel like we’ve been improving a lot over the season, so it was a really good game growth wise.”

Essentially the same squad started on Sunday, and Park indicated that the team was a little sore, but resilient. The No. 8 was particularly stunning, never falling off the big, hard-charging Humboldt runners, and carrying just as brutally. She scored the first two tries of the game, hitting the line at pace, and inside center Avery Tallman kicked the first of seven conversions.

Humboldt began to show itself at the turn of the first quarter. Players like Janay Aoga, Libby Treu, Madison Benson and several others did not go down on the first tackle attempt, and they kept the ball alive through offloads. But when Stanford’s defense was still fresh, it was able to get Humboldt’s attack moving sideways as the phases wore on, and then plucked possession at the right time. Jett Hayward was very good in this regard. That’s how Stanford’s scored its third try, turning over a promising Humboldt attack and then charging downfield, with the finishing pass going to the fullback, 21-0.

But as the half wore on, the Lumberjacks were able to get the ball into its backs’ hands more, and players like Tiana Barron, Benson and fullback Hannah Hartmann were able to continue the go-forward begun by the pack.

“We place a huge emphasis on communication and support, and staying spread, which I think we did a lot better this game than we have in the past couple weeks,” Hartmann said. “They run a hammer a lot, which is their crash. They came in low, and so we made adjustments.”

The half ended with two Humboldt tries out wide, one of which was a penalty try, to chop the deficit to nine into the break. That yellow card occurred just before the halftime whistle, so the Cardinal had to re-establish momentum while a player down.

“Some of the things we do,” Park said of regrouping techniques, “we take a deep breath, reset, go back to our basics and work on doing the basics really well, and from there everything else will follow.”

Two minutes in, Hayward dove over the line, 28-12, but this is where the game got tense. Humboldt kept deploying its hard runners at a good pace, and Stanford struggled to halt the march downfield. The Cardinal got lucky when one campaign ended with a knock-on on Stanford’s five meter, but the subsequent scrum saw the ball pop out and Humboldt scoop it up for the try.

At the 65-minute mark, No. 8 Treu went over for a try, and now it was 28-22.

“We played with a lot of support, and we didn’t get greedy at the try line,” Hartmann said. “It was awesome!”

Stanford rallied with two quick tries that put the game out of reach. The first built off a nice break from Annika Hansen, and the second one developed after good connecting play from Park and Hayward. Tallman scored in the final 10 minutes, capitalizing on good field position after a deep restart.

“We have a pretty strong squad so it was nice to get some of the impact players off the bench in and lift us up the last 20 minutes. I think that made a really big impact,” Park said.

Humboldt didn’t back off, and in the final 12 minutes put away Hartmann, who can really navigate through broken defense, and a wing for tries. Treu kicked the final points, 49-34.

“I think we had some very experienced players historically in our back line and that’s not as true this year, so it’s just been a little bit of an adjustment – especially with the wet field, trying to figure out how to get the ball wide and utilize the backs and the forwards,” Park reviewed. “We did a really good job of that today when it was a little less wet and slippery.

“Jett always has really strong runs and was really helping communicate and pull the team together,” the junior continued with standout performances. “And some of our wings like, Nicole Edsall. This is her third game back and it’s been really helpful having her on the wing, directing people and being able to rely on her for having more eyes on the field.”

Humboldt fullback Hartmann was equally pleased with her side’s performance.

“I think we did so well. I know the score didn’t turn out in our favor but every single one of our girls killed it out there. I couldn’t be more proud,” the captain enthused. “And we had two girls who’ve never scored before, and one of them scored twice, so it was awesome.

“We have two four-years, a couple of third-years, and most of us are freshmen and sophomores. It’s a building year so that’s really cool,” Hartmann added. “And we obviously compete in DI and I think we hold our own. We’re building up from here.”

Humboldt is back on the road next weekend, this time to Davis, while Chico State and Cal face off in Berkeley.

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