MARFU's women's DII college final is set: Temple v Shippensburg in a rematch of the EPRU championship. Temple's berth to the MARFU title match evolved in dramatic fashion, as flyhalf Rachel Bandura's penalty fell over the crossbar as the final whistle sounded for the 22-19 win over George Washington.
Temple coach Owen Jones described the match as a conflict of styles. George Washington boasts sizable, strong players who keep play moving downhill.
"There isn't much flair; they just smack you in the face," Jones said of GW. "We do some more exciting stuff - with kicking and passing. It went back and forth the whole match - them smacking us and us running around them."
Freshman inside center Kate Stauffer was on fire today and logged two tries for the Owls, while senior lock Kayleigh Dymond ran in Temple's third try.Bandura slotted two of three conversions and the all-important penalty.
For 30 minutes of the second half, the teams were tied at 19-all, but Temple spent a lot of that time inside their 10 meter, defending several five-meter scrums and holding up at least three GW tries.
"I definitely got a few more gray hairs out of it," Jones said. "For a lot of the game, we were focused on just preventing them from crossing the goalline. When they had the ball, it was very difficult to get it back. So we played patient defense and let them make mistakes."
The final penalty opportunity occurred after one such mistake. With the ball inside Temple's 22 meter, the Owls' tactical kick and chase game moved the team into GW's half. Then Bandura - who experienced similar pressure in a 2010 playoff game - slotted the go-ahead points to close the game.
With Shippensburg's win over Mary Washington, both finalists have booked their ticket to Mobile, Ala., for the national round of 16. That said, Temple isn't letting off the gas as it faces Shippensburg in tomorrow's championship.
"They're our biggest rival, and we're going into this game for the win," Jones said. "Shippensburg is a well-rounded team; they're aggressive and have size but also the skill set to challenge with the kick. It's always a close game with Ship - usually we're within a score of them, but we always seem to come out on the wrong end."
A different Temple squad that played Shippensburg in the fall will take the field tomorrow. The coaching staff typically fields all of its seasoned players in the fall, and not many rookies get their shot on the A side. Tomorrow, four or five freshmen who have worked their way onto the starting will take on the EPRU champs.
"It actually works in our favor," Jones said of the rookies' inexperience in high-level games. They're not clueless, but they don't have that thought in the back of their head of what's on the line."
The third place match between George Washington and Mary Washington is just as important as the final, as MARFU receives three seeds to nationals. Both attended the 2011 tournament, and the winner will head to Columbus, Ohio, for their round of 16 match.
By 2 p.m. tomorrow, we'll know who's playing who at nationals, so stay tuned.