Written by Jackie Finlan    Saturday, 02 June 2012 00:10    PDF Print Write e-mail
Hempfield Keeps Pool B Interesting
Tournaments - USA 7s CRC

There were several blowouts during the first two rounds of the girls’ High School Rugby Challenge, which makes choosing the game of the day quite easy: Hempfield vs Catholic Memorial. One should have given Hempfield more credit, considering they played Divine Savior to a 12-0 loss earlier in the day, but Catholic Memorial was favored, especially after their 26-0 victory over New York in round one.

Catholic Memorial took the first-half lead when Sarah Dillett scored and converted her try, 7-0. But Hempfield wasn’t discouraged and kept hammering away at Catholic Memorial.

“We’ve been going through this all year,” Hempfield coach Joe Capp said. “We’ve had to come back from deficits a couple of times. Seven minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but it is when you have this much space. We knew we had enough time to get it back.”

The turning point occurred when Hempfield was able to play out wide. The players had struggled to move the ball away from the breakdown and were getting tied up on offense. But once the ball moved through the hands, the attack started to find stretch its legs.

One of the youngest players on the team, freshman Elizabeth Schell, scored in the corner to pull within two. Hempfield forewent the difficult conversion attempt in lieu of a quick kickoff. The Pennsylvania team regained the restart and nearly scored again, but a knock-on in the tryzone recalled the score. A series of penalties kept the ball in Hempfield’s possession, and Catholic Memorial scrambled to repel the attempts at the line.

“I knew that as long as we could stay down there – scrum after scrum – from 10, five meters out, then we’d find a way to get in,” Capp said. “We finally stole a scrum and scrumhalf Shannon Millar broke weak and put it down.”

The game ended shortly after, and the girls were beaming with their 10-7 victory. The players might not have known that Catholic Memorial is the fourth-best team in the nation, but they obviously appreciated the significance of a come-from-behind win.

“We don’t have a lot of stars,” Capp said. “We have kids who work hard and try to play to our plan. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we try. We just need more 7s experience, play more games so we can execute the things we practice.”

None of the high schools have much 7s experience, but Capp has been grateful for the opportunity to play teams outside of the Eastern Pennsylvania region.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Pennsylvania teams are as strong as any in the country,” Capp said.

There’s a chance that Hempfield could advance to the semifinals Sunday. If they win their third pool play game against New York tomorrow, and Catholic Memorial defeats Divine Savior, then three teams will be 2-1 at the end of pool play. Then it’ll be up to point differential to decide who advances to the final four.

Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 01 June 2012 23:42    PDF Print Write e-mail
New Era Starts
RUGBYmag Premier - Exclusive News

The USA National Team is in camp at West Point and it’s been a good start.

Written by Jackie Finlan    Friday, 01 June 2012 23:04    PDF Print Write e-mail
DSHA Squeaky Clean at HSRC
Tournaments - USA 7s CRC

A new element enters the girls’ High School Rugby Challenge as it relocates from Drexel’s Vidas Athletic Complex to PPL Park’s 18,000-seat stadium: nerves. Of all the girls’ high schools participating, Divine Savior has the most post-season, and therefore high-pressure, games under their belts – but that’s in 15s. None of the teams have a ton of 7s experience, so even though DSHA is sitting pretty at 2-0, there playoff future won't be certain until after pool play finishes.

DSHA scored 49 unanswered points through two rounds of the USA 7s HSRC. (Dobson Images)

“The game is just so new to everyone; we’re still adjusting,” DSHA coach John Klein said. “Sevens is fun and exciting, but it’s so hard to control from a coach’s perspective. You want to control more than you're able to.”

Divine Savior got off to what seemed like a quick start when scrumhalf Kaitlin Malliet scored against Hempfield after one minute of play. DSHA continued to attack the tryline but a series of forward passes – which plagued the squad all day – and unforced errors kept the score to a 5-0 lead.

Wing Tiara Henry lengthened her side’s lead with a breakaway try that Emily Van Bibber converted, and that would be all of the scoring for rest of the game, 12-0. While Hempfield put up a good fight, it was more DSHA’s errors that limited the scoreline.

The Holy Angels second game against New York saw the offense flow a little better. The hands and support came together to see Van Bibber and Malliet score two tries apiece, while Henry, prop Lindy Wise and sub Maggie Brennan added five-pointers. Van Bibber also slotted a conversion for the 37-0 victory.

“I still think we have a little more in us,” Klein said. “We missed a couple of opportunities, but New York came out hard and was a tremendous opponent.”

Divine Savior did well to rebound after their slow start against Hempfield and will need to tap that resiliency as the stakes continue to escalate.

“Sevens is a team game; you can’t rely on one person,” Klein said. “If one person makes a mistake, then you’re done. That’s the difference between 7s and 15s – somebody can make a mistake in 15s and you can recover, but not in 7s.”

Divine Savior will take on Catholic Memorial – again – in the teams’ third pool play match. If DSHA wins, then they advance to the semifinals. If they lose, then they still have a chance to advance, but that depends on Hempfield’s result against New York and the subsequent point differentials.

“It feels like the 15th time we’ve played them,” Klein joked about the Wisconsin rivalry. “But I have nothing but respect for Catholic Memorial – always have and always will. [Catholic Memorial coach] John Waliszewski is like a brother. I hate coming out all this way to play him, but I’d rather play him now than later on.”

Written by Jackie Finlan    Friday, 01 June 2012 23:40    PDF Print Write e-mail
Doylestown Keeping Penn's Playoff Hopes Alive
Tournaments - USA 7s CRC

Doylestown has been the surprise of the girls’ High School Rugby Championship thus far, going 2-0 after wins against Fairport (43-0) and West Shore United (17-0). The Pennsylvania team will face its biggest competition in Fallbrook during tomorrow’s third pool play game inside PPL Park, but regardless of the outcome, they’ll advance to the semifinals on Sunday.

The most exciting aspect of Doylestown play is Jane Riley. She leads the tournament with six tries scored, but she’s much more than a quick step and open-field speed. On several occasions, she was popping to her feet after the tackle to bring down the very next ballcarrier. She had great vision, tenacity and work rate, and really drove the success of the team. She’s just returned to the field after recovering from an injury, so she’s not even at full strength yet.

Riley scored four tries against Fairport in the team’s opener, while Sophia Pyrz, Marisha Bates and Sarah McCandless, who also had four conversions, tacked on five-pointers.

“I was surprised,” Doylestown coach Stacy Mancuso said after the Fairport win. “I learned a lot about Fairport online, and they were seeded pretty high in the New York union for 15s. I thought it would be a close game – however, this is our strongest, most talented side since 2004, when I started coaching.”

Doylestown played in their first 7s tournament a couple of weekends ago and went winless in Delaware. Since that experience, the team dedicated themselves to making a good impression at the HSRC. They practiced three hours per day, five days per week and brought in 7s specialists to work the girls into shape. Mancuso also switched up the team’s former game plan of keeping the ball alive with offloads out of contact and expanded the attack to use the width of the field.

“Our speed definitely gave us an edge,” Mancuso said. “We were nervous in the beginning with the ball going all over the place, but they settled down, got the ball wide, saw the holes and took advantage. And the support was unbelievable.

“They’re taking this really seriously,” Mancuso said of her players. “We qualified in the fall, and they want this. We lost some players from last year and had to rebuild. Three of the returners are 9th graders, and as 13 year olds, they're working well with our seniors."

Doylestown’s second victory was a little more challenging, but two tries from Riley, one from Bates and a conversion from McCandless was enough to send the local team to the semifinals. There’s a decent possibility that Doylestown may be the only local representative to advance to the Final Four, and hopefully the hometown crowd will push them deeper into playoffs.

Written by Jackie Finlan    Friday, 01 June 2012 21:50    PDF Print Write e-mail
Fallbrook Fulfilling HSRC Expectations
Tournaments - USA 7s CRC

No surprise – Fallbrook was the class of the girls’ USA 7s High School Rugby Championship. The San Diego team is one of three squads with a 2-0 record after day one, but the Warriors exhibited the most lethal attack of all eight teams.

Casey Karl accounted for 20 of Fallbrook's 99 points today. (Dobson Images)

Fallbrook began the day with a 39-0 victory over West Shore United (Pa.), followed by a 60-0 dismantling of Fairport (N.Y.). Casey Karl led her teammates with four tries, while Alex Beckett followed with 18 points on two tries and four conversions, and Richelle Stephens notched 17 points on three tries and a conversion. Hooker Johni Durbin and prop Karina Guadalupe each scored a brace of tries, while Emma Workman, Michel Navarro, Alexi Eich and Megan Pinson, who also had two conversions, rounded out the day’s scoring with a try apiece.

Ninety-nine points over 28 minutes – and there’s still a third pool game to play.

“One of the pros is winning,” Stephens said while weighing the positives and negatives of such a high point differential. “But one of the cons is we couldn’t figure out what we needed to work on because we were running over them.”

Fallbrook plays 7s the way they play 15s - they use their superior speed and ballhandling skills to stretch defenses, and when they're on the other side of the ball, their aggressive pressure defense stifles offenses before they have the chance to get on the front foot. And then they poach the ball in the tackle. Stephens indicated that the team can always improve on their tackling intensity, but the tackle completion rate was pretty impressive.

It certainly helps that Fallbrook's 7s style mimics their 15s style, but their success is also a factor of the age grade graduates. Many of the players have progressed through the U14 and U16 teams, where 7s is played often.

There was a question as to whether Fallbrook would show signs of burnout after a long 15s season that peaked with a national championship a few weeks ago. Guadalupe indicated that the team goal was more about having fun, playing as a team, and not worrying about the outcome provided the girls left everything on the field. But the opportunity to be the first girls high school crowned as 15s and 7s champion is too tempting not to entertain.

“It’s awesome being here,” Stephens said. “Everyone else back in California, their season is over and we’re still going.”

“I was really excited to come here," Guadalupe added. "Personally I think 7s is a lot more fun and more action, but also requires more concentration - to make all of your tackles for example. You have to do all of that and still have fun."

Fallbrook will play their final pool play match against Doylestown – also undefeated in pool B – tomorrow morning at PPL Park. Both teams are guaranteed advancement to the semifinals and are playing for seed. Divine Savior is also undefeated in Pool A and will likely play the loser of Fallbrook v Doylestown in their eventual semifinal.


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