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Wildcats Win in 79th Minute

  • 17 Jan 2016

Arizona point-scorers Kristina Aprahamian, Jessica Carpenter, Kaitlynn Verheyden.


Arizona got its first win of the season, improving to 1-1 in the DI Pacific Mountain Conference South, but it was a heart-stopper. The Wildcats trailed CSU Northridge for 79 minutes, but a clutch penalty kick afforded the 15-14 win.


Northridge, which was promoted to DI this year, scored first and converted its try in minute 28. Arizona outside center Tina Aprahamian dotted down in minute 36, and the conversion sent the teams tied into halftime. Northridge reinstated the seven-point lead eight minutes into the second half, and the 14-7 scoreline remained intact until the 75th minute. Arizona hooker Kaitlynn Veheyden crossed in the corner to give the team hope. The angle on the conversion was too much for flyhalf Jessica Carpenter, and so Arizona went back to work while trailing 14-12.


But Carpenter got another shot in the 79th minute when Northridge conceded a penalty in the flyhalf’s range. She cooly slotted the kick, and the three-pointer afforded the 15-14 win.


Despite the drama, the win was nice recompense for the season-opening loss to rival Arizona State. That Dec. 5 fixture was winnable until the final 10 minutes, when the Sun Devils surged in energy and pulled away for the 34-19 victory.


“We’ve talked about that game, and I told the team that their last 20 minutes had to be better than their first 20 minutes,” Arizona coach Rusty Wortman reflected on lessons learned. “Today, we adjusted after mistakes and looked for more opportunities – that helped. We also brought in fresh legs off the bench, and the energy and attitude they provided raised our level of play.


“This is a great team and group of girls, and I’ve been waiting for them to show the heart and passion I know they have,” Wortman added. “They showed it in the second half.”


At the center of it all is captain Carpenter. She slotted the game-winner and impressed with her level of poise throughout the game.


“She’s really coming into her own and embracing a leadership role as captain,” Wortman praised the junior. “She’s not only instructing and helping new players, but she’s also pushing the team forward and making adjustments along the way.”


The entire team continues to mature. Arizona has adjusted to the loss of power center Amy Naber (who scored several tries for the Serevi Selects this weekend at the Fiji Coral Coast 7s) and scrumhalf Ria Joseph, who was a 2nd Team All American. Although irreplaceable, the current backline gleaned a ton of experience from playing alongside the graduates. Last year’s rookie forwards are also growing in the game, and the result is a more balanced Wildcats side.


The Pacific Mountain South runs a 10-game regular season, so there’s still a lot of rugby to be played. The Pacific Mountain then holds conference championships, and an undisclosed number (last year, four) of teams move onto national playoffs. But Arizona is also concerned about 7s, having committed to the CRC 7s in Chester, Pa., in June. So there really is a lot of rugby to be played.


In other conference news, UC San Diego improved to 2-0 after an 80-12 win over UC Santa Barbara. CSU Northridge heads to Arizona State Sunday looking for its first win of its DI career.

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