[Photo: Lisa Butts was integral to Nor Cal's attack this weekend. Amy Northcutt photo]
Nor Cal Triple Threat is an interesting team. The DI women’s club calls the Sacramento Valley (Calif.) their “home,” however players as far north as Arcata and south to Salinas travel up to four hours to play for the motley squad. Consequently, the team doesn’t practice during the regular season, making predictions for their success very difficult.
“When you train with your teammates four-to-six hours every week, you don’t want to let them down on game day,” Triple Threat coach Alex Triantafyllou said. “Since we don’t have that commitment, the investment isn’t there. Sometimes we don’t know the lineup until the night before the game.”
The set-up is not ideal, but Triple Threat fills a hole for those Chico State, Humboldt and UC Davis alumni who still want to play. Triantafyllou believes that if Triple Threat trained like a regular team, then they could compete with the top teams in the country.
“We have great talent,” the coach said, “but no continuity. It’s difficult to get players synced when the personnel’s unknown week to week. If I put our top 15 players on the field, we could compete with almost anyone.”
Triple Threat had an opportunity to showcase some of their potential this weekend. Facing one of their more difficult opponents in the CR1, Triple Threat was fortunate enough to see the Emerald City Mudhens on day two of their northern California road trip. The Mudhens began their weekend with a 41-19 win over the San Francisco Fog.
The hosts did a good job of working the ball touchline to touchline before inserting forwards like Lisa Butts into the line to produce overloads out wide. Erika Lane stepped into flyhalf while Haley French moved back out to outside center, and the pair did well to create opportunities for those around them. The hosts ran out to a three-try lead, as Rachel Gonzales, Aimee Coyne, Naima Reddick and Lane dotted down tries. Lane also slotted three conversions. The Mudhens played a narrower game in the first half, attacking around the breakdown, and got on the board with one try.
With a comfortable lead into the second half, Triple Threat eased up while the Mudhens diversified their attack and sent some hard-running backs around a complacent defense. Behind the powerful legs of Ashley Kmiecik, a true game-changer, Emerald City ran in three tries during the third quarter to take a two-point lead.
“We weren’t doing a great job of retaining possession and found ourselves on defense a lot,” Triantafyllou said. “We got lazy, fell off tackles, and the Mudhens took in a couple of big, long runs for tries. Once we realized we were losing it, we tightened back up and started retaining the ball better.”
Lane helped engineer a change of momentum with her boot, sending long clearing kicks into the corners and turning around the defense. It allowed Triple Threat to play in the Mudhens’ end a bit more and start a comeback of their own.
Each side would score two more tries – Triple Threat’s coming from Suzanna Iwate and Lisa Butts – for six apiece, but Lane’s penalty gave the home side a one-point lead that would last until the final whistle.
It was a nice win for Nor Cal, who had a few factors play in their favor, unlike last week when they lost to Tempe on the road. Their Eagle players were back; 18 players showed up to the field; and the Mudhens were playing in their second game of the weekend.
“We’ve played the Mudhens tightly the last couple of times we’ve seen them, so the win isn’t a total surprise,” Triantafyllou said. “We can hang with anyone; we just don’t know who’s going to show up on game day.”