It’s official – Glendale will play in the 2012 Women’s Premier League. In the only challenge match contested, the Raptors upended the Minnesota Valkyries 53-5, making their addition to next year’s WPL an irrefutable one.
Before competing in the national championships, the WPL mandates that Tier 2 Premier teams and DI club finalists must declare their intent to challenge or accept a challenge match. DI champion Chicago North Shore did not want to play in the WPL, giving the DC Furies another year in the country’s most elite competition. Glendale, however, wanted a shot at the big leagues, and their loss to North Shore did not deflate their desire for promotion.
“Getting up to the WPL was a goal we set back in the spring, so despite our loss to Chicago North Shore we knew this was coming,” Glendale coach Lisa Rosen said. “To be frank, it's been a long and hard season. We did well in league play, but we weren't really pushed the way North Shore pushed us at nationals. That game served as a harsh reality check.”
Glendale underwent a facelift this year. While the club had evolved into a solid, middle-of-the-pack DI team, it was never a Final Four contender during its existence.
“With the influx of personal this season – both the players everyone’s been talking about as well as many others – it's a bit of a rebirth for Glendale,” Rosen said. “We have really only been playing together for about four months. … We are working very hard to define our own style of play, and the National Championship exposed the areas we hadn't been tested in before.”
Some of the Raptors’ shortfalls occurred due to a lack of high-pressure games, creating situations where old habits reappear and trust in teamwork suffers. But this weekend’s game proved that Glendale is still eager to improve, trouncing a WPL team three weeks after the rest of the nation’s women’s club have put their boots to rest for the offseason.
It was an easy win, either. Through the bitter cold, biting rain, the Valkyries controlled the early portion of the game, with Sarah Chobot dotting down the opening points. Minnesota got good games out of their flyhalf as well as No. 8 Lauren Daly.
Minnesota starved Glendale of the ball, but once the Raptors were able to execute their more dynamic game plan, the tries rolled in.
Flyhalf Hannah Stolba led with 33 points on four tries, five conversions and a penalty. DI MVP Jill Potter, Kitt Wager, Katie Janus and Bethany Humphrey all added five-pointers.
“We've been working very hard on moving the ball after a line break, and when we did that we found ourselves in the try zone,” Rosen said. “So as a coach I'm less interested in who scored and more enthusiastic about our ability to make those finishing passes under such tough conditions.”
In addition to try scorers Potter and Stolba, Rosen praised the work of Jamie Lange, Bethany Wilson and Robin Roberts, who all contributed to the Raptors’ peak performance this year.
“We were sad that the victory couldn't be shared by everyone,” Rosen lamented. “Andrea Prusinski, the season’s leading scorer, was unavailable; Sara Edwards is in Cuba with Atlantis; and captain Sarah Wilson is rehabbing a shoulder injury. It really came down to depth and conditioning. We traveled with 19 healthy bodies, used our subs effectively, and accelerated the pace as the game went on.”
With one agenda item on the list checked off, there are still many more to attack, including recruiting for the burgeoning DII side. But before launching full force into 2012, “now we are going to enjoy a much needed rest,” Rosen concluded.
Glendale joins San Diego as the first two teams to be promoted from DI into the WPL. Last year, ORSU marked the first Premier team to be relegated into DI.