If ever there was a game propelling fans out of the stands, it was Berkeley and San Diego’s Cup Semifinal during this morning’s Women’s Club 7s Championship. Underdog San Diego rallied to tie the game, then sent their youngest player, 20-year-old Hannah Lopez, across the tryline a minute into sudden death for the 10-5 win and trip to semifinals.
It was actually Lopez’s second try of the game. Her first came during injury time, as San Diego got one of its few opportunities in Berkeley’s end. The rest of the match seemed to play in the All Blues’ favor, as the reigning champs got better breaks from Vix Folayan, and had good success with Phoebe Boone and Lucy Croy penetrating. However, even though it took an extra defender at times, or required a cover tackle, Berkeley’s ballcarriers were kept out of the try zone.
All but once. Berkeley took a 5-0 lead with a Folayan try that began in the All Blues’ end. From a penalty, Folayan took a switch into San Diego’s gut, and dragged three defenders into contact. A phase later, the powerful wing was back on her feet and scampering around the weakside of the ruck. It caught San Diego by surprise, and Val Griffeth didn’t have enough from the opposite side to track her down, 5-0.
One could have been San Diego’s death knell occurred just before half. Griffeth got the ball on the wing near midfield and kicked downfield for the foot race against Irene Gardner. Folayan is near the contact area and slips down the sideline, evidently fending Katie Lorenz near Berkeley’s 40 meter before Ryan Carlyle pushed the Eagle wing into touch. Emilie Bydwell was there to collect the ball and attempted a quick lineout, but Berkeley’s Lucy Croy was there, too. She perfectly timed her hit, and intercepted the throw-in to score.
Amidst the cheers, the referee eventually spotted the assistant referee back on Berkeley’s 30 meter, flag raised. Folayan grazed the touchline when she attempted to avoid Lorenz, and the try was called.
Up until this point, no one had scored on Berkeley, so if San Diego had to come back from a two-try deficit, then that may have been too much. But with the first half over, San Diego just had to put one player across.
When San Diego did break Berkeley’s score-against record, it nearly didn’t happen. As ball handling errors increased with fatigue, the finishing pass to Lopez bounced on its way to the wing. But she recovered well enough and took off for the sideline to take the corner and was rewarded with the try, 5-5.
“Our game plan is to get it wide and I was on the wing,” Lopez said. “So I had to work really hard when the ball got to me, whether it was getting the ball to that person looping me, making that run, or keeping my feet in contact. I just really wanted it. I visualized putting the ball on the other side of the tryline.”
Berkeley gave San Diego one last scare, as Boone broke down the sideline until Bydwell pulled her down at the two-meter. A few scrums continue of San Diego’s five meter, but the forwards do an excellent job of holding up one try and eventually stealing the last one and running out of danger.
During the one-minute break, San Diego
“We know them many of their players personally,” Lopez explained, “so we broke down their team, figured out their strengths and weaknesses, and attacked. In overtime, we decided that we were going to do it, and believed that we were better and worked harder.”
When the players retook the field after the one-minute break, it became clear that San Diego was revitalized, while Berkeley had drained the tank. San Diego received the kickoff, and the All Blues weren’t closing on defense like they had in the previous two halves. Lorenz hit Lopez out wide but she didn’t have a clear path into space; she made it, though. A little step inside that froze Boone and Gardner, and wheels that outlasted Folayan, and Lopez was over the line, 10-5.
“This win meant a lot to us,” Lopez said. “We treated this game like the final and will continue to do that the rest of the day.
San Diego will meet the Youngbloodz in the Cup semifinals. The Youngbloodz defeated Chicago North Shore 14-0 and were once again led by Christy Ringgenberg, who accounted for nine points on a try and two conversions.
This quarterfinal was very scrappy, but highlights included North Shore’s Kate Daley, who is the consummate playmaker, and Youngbloodz Katie Johnson, who kept working hard to get around defenders in the open field. Rachel Lentsch.
The Cup semis are set to kick off in about 20 minutes, so stay tuned for player and coach feedback.
Seattle 17-12 Emerald City
NOVA 7-0 DC Furies
San Diego 10-5 Berkeley
Youngbloodz 14-0 Chicago North Shore
San Diego v Youngbloodz
Seattle v NOVA 1