The first round of the women’s DII Club Championship has ended, and Pittsburgh and Albuquerque will play tomorrow to see who advances to the final. The victor will play the winner of Sacramento v Portland.
Both teams played in the first two matches of the day, when the drastic effect of the wind had yet to proliferate the field. As a result, neither team was happy with their wins.
“We didn’t play very well,” Pittsburgh coach Anthony Chappie said after the 25-7 win over Santa Monica. “It was probably our worst game all year. Some of it was the wind, some of it was nerves. We knocked on, lots of penalties, and we didn’t play the free-flowing, consistent game we usually do.”
Chappie instructed his players that they needed to hold onto the ball more, mostly due to the wind, and stop attempting 50/50 passes. That said, Pittsburgh was able to send Donita Thomas over for three tries, as well as Jamie Filipek and Rebecca Trapp for five-pointers.
“We’re just a better team,” Chappie explained the win. “We’re better coached, but we’re a good team that didn’t play well today. Nothing was great, but the few times we were able to get the ball wide, we were able to score.
“The players know they underperformed, and they have to respond if they want to win the national championship,” Chappie continued. “All you have to do is win and move along. We’re looking forward to the next game so we can bring our level up.”
Pittsburgh will be bolstered by a few starters who couldn’t travel for today’s game, so that’ll help their performance against Albuquerque, which defeated Burlington 12-0 in their quarterfinal.
Coach Matt Odle has similar reacted similarly to Chappie when asked to reflect on the team’s performance.
“In the first half, we played badly,” Odle said. “We didn’t follow our game plan. I’d rather play positional rugby, keeping it in their end, but we were running it out of our end and had a lot of knock-ons. The wind also caused some problems with our halfback connection.”
Odle credited Burlington with their aggressive play, in particular the hard running of their locks, who caused a lot of problems at the gainline. Flanker Marica Martinic played out of her skin to drag those big girls to the ground, and fellow flanker Melissa Shelby put in some overtime to support any breakaways.
The first half ended in a deadlock, and Odle didn’t pull any punches during the halftime speech. He told them frankly that they needed to step up and respond.
So they did. Albuquerque was able to create some space out wide and put wing Mercedes Davis into space for two tries. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for the win.
“We’re a better team this year,” Odle said in comparison with the 2010 squad. “We’re more cohesive but we don’t have that punch, those star players. But that’s not our primary focus. We’ve made seven changes since last year, and that’s forced us to play a much simpler game.”
Odle watched Pittsburgh’s game against Santa Monica and expects an excellent semifinal tomorrow.
“They play great rugby,” Odle said. “We have some tricks up our sleeve that we didn’t show today … on accident. We will show them tomorrow and spend tonight talking about structure and our game plan.”
The game gets underway at 11 a.m. tomorrow.