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USC Defense Challenges Riverside

  • 02 Feb 2016

Michelle Hong moved to flyhalf for the USC game and contributed two conversions. (Photo courtesy UC Riverside Women’s Rugby)


UC Riverside improved to 2-0 in the DII Gold Coast, but not without a significant challenge from University of Southern California Saturday. After adjusting strategies in the second half, the Highlanders pulled away for a 19-0 win.


“It was hard for us to get through their very good defense,” UC Riverside coach Ivan Pacewizh said. “They marked our girls well. We were compromising a lot because I asked the girls to do new things, like putting more players into the ruck. I thought it was going to be a complete forwards game; we heard a lot about their No. 8 and flyhalf coming in with a flanker. We were being really conservative about protecting that area.”


The first half produced no points. When Riverside regrouped at halftime, the team agreed that it was not outmatched in or around the breakdown, and that it was time to embrace its preferred style of game.


“USC didn’t change the way they were playing, so it was really easy for us to read what they were doing,” Pacewizh spoke to second-half adjustments. “They have some really fast athletes, but they run side to side, looking for the open space, which they didn’t get.


“We stopped worrying about them and opened up our offense, and the girls just started running like they always do.”


Even so, the newly reconfigured backline had some combinations to work out. Riverside is searching for the perfect fit at flyhalf, and moved outside center Michelle Hong to the halfback position for this game. Hong is a good distributor, but her true advantage is her speed, and flyhalf limits her opportunities.


“I played it safe for this game,” Pacewizh said. “It worked out well, but we’re still working toward putting players back to where I want them to play, so I can have more mobility in the line. The forwards have been playing the same style game. The only change we’re trying is putting our No. 8 and one flanker in the line for the attack.”


With the addition of No. 8 Emma Dixon and flanker Tishani Finnikin in the backline, the overloads became more frequent. Dixon, Finnikin and wing Cheila Tavares all scored tries, while Hong kicked two conversions.


The following day, Riverside hosted an ARCA camp that featured Black Ferns coach Daryl Suasua and U.S. Women’s National Team coach Pete Steinberg.


“It was amazing,” Pacewizh praised. “The players learned a lot. Pete and Daryl, they’re quality coaches and so humble. They were so engaged with the girls, and they had a great time.”

In other Gold Coast news, Long Beach State beat Occidental 99-0. Fullback Crystal Brown led all point-scorers with six tries, while inside center Gabrielle Clarke accounted for 29 points on three tries and seven conversions. Prop Troya Joseph, lock Crystal Elston, No. 8 Melia Carlin, scrumhalf Maria Almazan, flyhalf Teresa Fuentes Castilla, outside center Santana Chavez and wing Kaline McCaney added a try apiece.

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