Mother Lode Girls’ U19s have endured a lot of heartache this season. Fielding one of their best teams to date, the Northern California team was denied invitation to the National High School/U19 Championship in part to their proximity to two-time national finalist Sacramento Amazons. Mother Lode has spent all season proving to USA Rugby that they deserved a bid, and supported their cause with a NorCal Championship last weekend.
The regional tournament showcased three RugbyMag.com-ranked teams in Mother Lode, Bishop O’Dowd (BOD) and Sacramento Amazons, and were augmented by Rio Linda. Day one saw Mother Lode dispatch Rio Linda, while Mother Lode eliminated Sacramento 36-19 in their semifinal. That set up a very exciting final between two quality sides.
BOD took a 7-0 lead seven minutes in, but Mother Lode responded five minutes later when No. 8 Katie Newton dotted down for her side’s first try. Mother Lode took the lead at minute 34, when flanker Gabrielle Schmaeling took a penalty from two meters out and started a driving maul to the tryline. The pack forced their way across the line and Schmaeling found some green. The conversion was good for the 12-7 lead into the half.
Twelve minutes into the second half and Mother Lode enjoyed the biggest point differential of the game. Rebecca Bratsch galloped from midfield, breaking several tackles en route to the try zone for the five-pointer, 17-7.
BOD kept it interesting and notched a converted try three minutes later, and there the battle waged until the whistle. Mother Lode’s defense held strong – as did Bishop O’Dowd’s – and the game ended in a 17-14 decision to Mother Lode.
Mother Lode’s championship run is even more impressive considering the squad did without returning all stars Maddie Arenchild, Samantha Gaither and Casey Evanoff for much of the league and tournament season.
“There were times during the season when 10 of the 15 players on the pitch were first-year players,” Mother Lode coach Rod Chance said. “Among these are six U15 players, two of which have earned starting positions, including standout starting scrumhalf, Tasi Monforte.
“Mother Lode is undefeated in league play the last two years, against 17 vastly improved teams in Northern California,” Chance continued. “We are loaded with rookie and younger players who are stepping up to the challenge and gaining valuable experience that will sustain the team for years to come."
Mother Lode will contest the California State Championship against Fullerton, representing Southern California. Fallbrook defeated Fullerton 20-15 in the SoCal final, but forfeited their berth since they’ll be coming off of nationals the weekend prior. The state final will occur at Jesuit High School in Sacramento on Saturday, May 19.
Mother Lode 17
Tries: Newton, Schmaeling, Bratsch
Bishop O’Dowd 14
Tries: Gretchen Shaw, Zoe Karanfilian
Cons: Olivia Bernadel-Huey 2