It wasn’t until the last quarter of the match that the Pacific Coast pulled away from the Mid-Atlantic during the first match of the Women’s Collegiate All Star Championship, but the 27-12 win was a good first showing for the Grizzlies.
Pacific Coast led 13-7 at the break, despite maintaining the majority of possession. Fullback Laci Patiga and inside center Stara Gipson, both from Cal, dotted down tries, while flyhalf Hannah Lockwood (Oregon State) slotted a penalty. MARFU flyhalf Justina Pfister (UMCP/UMD) accounted for the Sharks’ five-pointer, and scrumhalf Elena Cantorna (Penn State) added the extras.
“Into the beginning of the second half, we spent about 32 minutes inside their 22 meter,” Pacific Coast coach Brandon Sparks said. “We had six tries held up, so they definitely made us work for everything. This team is one of the most professional squads I’ve ever worked with. They never got flustered – try held up? OK, we’ll march it in again – and just went to work.”
At the 43rd minute, MARFU made it even more interesting as flanker Ariel Johnson (West Chester) pulled her side within one point with a try, but that’s where the Sharks’ scoring would end. The Pacific Coast’s dominance in the scrum and able kick-and-chase game began wear down the east coast side.
“We took control of the scrums and our kick-and-chase game worked well. “But the biggest thing that gave us an edge was controlling the area of contact,” Sparks said. “We kept our feet until it was time to go down, and we were able to hold them up. We made some adjustments in the second half and started to tackle the ball – to prevent the offload – instead of the ballcarrier.”
In the 71st minute, Liz Danielson (Sacramento State) scored a try, which replacement No. 8 Jen Sever (Cal) converted. The breakaway added a five-pointer of her own in the final minute of play for the 27-12 win.
Cal players can be seen throughout the score sheet, but the Golden Bears are really the only big DI school that sent players – no Stanford, BYU, etc. It doesn’t bother Sparks or assistant coach Sharon Blaney, who held camps in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., and scouted players in Reno and the Champagne Classic.
“You have to work to find the jewels who might not stand out otherwise,” Sparks said of building the all-star program. “We really made an effort to build up the program, and we used a lot of social media to get the word out. All told, we had about 150 kids come out.”
For Sparks, the “diamond in the rough” is Washington’s Elaine Wellman.
“She’s got good speed but has been playing scrumhalf,” Sparks said. “We put her at wing, and she’s been phenomenal. There are few players we’re excited about, but she’s one that we’re really proud of.”
Sparks also tipped his hat to the BATS players out of San Francisco – Sally Le and Brit Johnson; Danielson, who’s only been playing rugby a couple of months and scored a try; as well as Lockwood, who’s been on the scene for so long and is always a calming force on the field.
At the time of print, the Midwest was leading the West 17-0 after the first half. If the trend keeps, then the Pacific Coast will play the Mustangs on Saturday in the teams’ final game of the championship.
Pacific Coast 27
Tries: Patiga, Gipson, Danielson, Sever
Conversions: Sever 2
Tries: Pfister, Johnson