Southern California continues to garner interest as the fight toward the final four continues. Reigning conference champion Ventura overtook Fullerton for second in the standings following a 36-12 win over the Wolfpack.
The pair has shared a friendly rivalry, one that was perhaps more heated last year, when the teams had to play each other three times en route to DII nationals. On Sunday, Ventura was the aggressor in the first half.
“We had Fullerton’s number from the get-go. They pushed back near the end of the first half, but we were able to shut them down before they put any points up,” said Ventura inside center Julie Gould, who (while looking for a head coach) co-coaches the team with No. 8 Danielle Robottom. “We came out with a lot of aggression and put them on their heels.”
Good support lines helped Ventura keep the ball alive and moving, and that tactic stressed Fullerton’s scrambling defense. Tries from flyhalf Katelyn Sellers, scrumhalf Desiree Leaupepe, wing Nycole Cole and inside center Gould, as well as a Leaupepe conversion provided a 22-0 lead.
“At halftime, I knew Fullerton would come out strong in the second half,” Gould said. “I told the team that the first five minutes would dictate whether we could keep pushing them over or had to grind it out for the rest of the game. They did come out strong and it was our turn to be on the back foot.”
Five minutes after the break, wing Destiny Wilson scored Fullerton’s first try, and scrumhalf Jacqueline Morales added the conversions. Approximately five minutes later, the Wolfpack added another try to make it 22-12.
“Our penalties came back to bite us. It was our own doing and they took advantage with quick taps,” Gould said. “That was our biggest challenge – that and Fullerton’s ability to push the ball.”
Ventura had two rostered subs, but they weren’t 100%, so the starters played all 80 minutes. The rookie class did well to buoy the squad and contribute. Flanker Vanessa Alvarez led the way in tackle count and was named MVP for her efforts. Amy Spafford was also a beast in contact.
Leaupepe scored in the 57th minute and converted her try to restore a 17-point differential. Sellers got her second try of the match in minute 80, and Leaupepe’s third conversion made it 36-12.
Ventura is now 4-1 with two more league games remaining: Saturday against San Luis Obispo (3-3) and a make-up match April 16 against San Fernando Valley (3-2). Ventura hasn’t guaranteed a berth to the SoCal final four, so there’s no looking farther than next week’s match. Ventura hopes to regain some injured players, otherwise post-season will be trying. Higher seeds host both the semifinals and final.
In other SoCal news, Tucson defeated San Fernando Valley 27-7, while Temecula forfeited its game to San Luis Obispo