This weekend was an important one for New York. The club didn’t make the turnaround it was hoping for in the regular season and wasn’t afforded the opportunity to defend its two Women’s Premier League championships this weekend. The best the team could finish was fifth, and New York did it with a 20-5 win over the DC Furies on Friday and 27-5 victory over Keystone Sunday.
New York is fairly familiar with Keystone, it being the closest WPL team logistically.
“We know that Keystone is a scrappy team that fights really hard for possession, especially at the point of contact,” New York coach Heidi Rubenstein said. “Our game plan was not to chase lost causes and set up our defense if there was a ball we knew we couldn’t win. Let them have it, set up again and attack in second phase so that we’re not digging for bad ball.”
Lots of penalties marred the first half of play, and both teams struggled to retain good, quality possession. New York finally got a break late in the first stanza when captain and inside center Rebecca Brafman, who broke her hand early in the game, picked from the base of the ruck and dove over for the try, 5-0.
When the team conferenced at halftime, Rubenstein wanted to make sure that her team didn’t lose any momentum when they returned to the pitch.
“We were doing a good job of not chasing lost causes and setting up defense, but our defensive line’s launch wasn’t as good as it could’ve been,” Rubenstein said. “We were letting Keystone come to us more, and we were playing on our back foot more than we should have. We got our launch going in the second half, were more patient and able to capitalize on mistakes when they made them.”
Lock Rosie Meisner helped set up the first score of the second half, carrying to the two-meter line before Hannah Rosenthal dove over for the try, which flyhalf Kaitlin Ruggiero converted, 12-0.
Keystone showed some life with a try in the corner to pull within five, but New York rallied and saw five-pointers from flanker Simone Van Saarloos and two from wing extraordinaire Vanesha McGee.
When considering MVPs for the weekend, Rubenstein was reluctant to single out individuals in this team effort.
“It’s not that I forget about Vanesha,” Rubenstein explained. “I know how good she is as a player, and every time she steps on the field, she’s such a threat. She gets the ball in her hand, and it’s just magic. She’s my given [for MVP], but it sounds like I’m putting her aside, but she deserves credit where credit’s due.”
Aside from acknowledging the Eagle wing’s contributions, Rubenstein pointed to wing Nicole Humphreys, who had a breakout weekend.
“She’s been one of those players who waited patiently for the start, and when she got her chance, she took advantage of it,” Rubenstein said. “So I was extremely proud of her this weekend.”
And national team selectors took notice as well. Women’s National Team coach Pete Steinberg also had a chat with Meisner, who was Rubenstein’s pick for forward MVP.
“I’m really sad that the season’s over because this weekend was huge for us,” Rubenstein said. “We played our game more than any other time in the season. We had a rough start to the season; it’s a huge transition season for us. We came into this season with six of our 23 from last year. The people who are new and on the bubble from years past and have been waiting for their start really stepped up and proved themselves this weekend. I’m really excited about the future for this team because it’s a brand new team.”