A thrilling contest unfolded during the third place game at the Girls’ High School Championship, as Wisconsin rivals Divine Savior (DSHA) and Catholic Memorial faced off in the penultimate match of the tournament. The two teams saw each other at the Midwest Championship weeks ago, and the same tight battle unfolded. But it was Divine Savior that held onto a narrow margin to win 10-8.
“We’ve played them before, so we knew we could beat them,” DSHA senior lock Tess Battiola said. “Our coaches know each other, we know each other and their style. The con is we came all the way to California to play them again. Ideally, we would have played in the championship final against Fallbrook, but it worked out differently, and we took this game.”
While the game was relatively clean, one could glean that this rivalry wasn’t necessarily a friendly one.
“Between the players, there’s a lot of not-good vibes,” Battiola said, “but when we’re playing, we’re not yelling at each other. Everything was classy. Everyone wants to kick us down because we have such a history at nationals, but we don’t focus on that. We play our best regardless of who our opponent is.”
Divine Savior lived up to that statement right from the get-go, as outside center Tierra Henry cut through covering defenders for a dazzling 50-meter try two minutes into the game. Henry has only been playing rugby for a season, and today marked the first time she started for the A side.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Henry said of the championship experience. “It’s a new sport for me, but I just love it. And I guess I was good enough to play, so it’s crazy being here.”
The Holy Angels stayed on the front foot, and five minutes later, flanker Claire Claussen dotted down for the 10-0 lead. Seven minutes in, and DSHA was done scoring for the day.
Catholic Memorial was down but not out, and responded well to the 10-point deficit. Flyhalf Katie Dries’ boot was integral to keeping her side in DSHA’s end, and she certainly was the MVP for her side. Unfortunately, Catholic didn’t vary its attack much. They got some good go-forward from players like lock Emma Metz, then worked the ball wide but didn’t have the speed to really make any ground – with the exception of miniature wing Rebecca Haight and fullback Sarah Dillett when she inserted. Catholic always had another line awaiting the outlet pass, but it was too concerned with getting the ball wide, and players weren’t running onto the ball or really challenging the defense.
Catholic did do an excellent job of running through phases and maintaining possession, but it just wasn’t translating into points. Finally, in the 52nd minute, Dries smartly opted for the penalty kick, although off center. She split the posts with ease and pulled with seven.
Catholic had a few long stands inside DHSA’s 22 meter, but the defense held and continued to drive the flat attack backward. In the 67th minute, another ball started down the line, and Dillett started streaking sideways in hopes of breaking around the corner. Haight was in support but she didn’t attempt to straighten up, so Dillett took the ball herself and found just enough room to ground it in the corner, 10-8.
It would have been a miracle if Dries slotted that conversion, which she didn’t, and there the score held for the rest of the game.
both teams had great performances this weekend, and both are disappointed they didn't qualify for the final. Catholic Memorial took an early lead on eventual champion Fallbrook in the semis and was only down 17-15 at half before losing 28-15. Fallbrook fell to Lakewood 19-0 in the semis.
“Every year, our competition gets better,” Battiola said. “We’re not used to playing when we’re behind on points, so if we had a little more experience coming from behind, then we could have done better in our loss [against Lakewood in the semifinals]. We’d know how to handle ourselves after getting scored on twice in a row, and to understand that it’s not the end of the game. It’s not something you can practice, but it’s something we could’ve done differently.
“There’s a small amount of disappoint [not playing in the final] – especially as a senior,” Battiola continued. “You want to bring back that championship game for your team. We played our hardest, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m still proud of us. And there are two really good teams playing in the final.”
DSHA is still one of the best teams in the country, as is Catholic Memorial, and Wisconsin can be proud to call them both their own.