Twin Cities has retained their undefeated record, the only one left in the Women’s Premier League, but the 36-26 victory over Beantown came with a price. The Amazons lost two key backs – inside center Sylvia Braaten and wing/fullback Dez Markovich – to knee injuries for the rest of the season, conservatively.
Sylvia Braaten (pictured) and Dez Markovich were sidelined during
Twin Cities' win over Beantown (Ryan Siverson photo)
“It was a game of attrition,” Twin Cities coach Roger Bruggemeyer said. “We only traveled with 17 and had to put two forwards into the backline. It was one of those games where we were lucky to have a good first half.”
Braaten, who was slated for the Eagles’ European tour in late November, and Markovich teamed up for the team’s first score, with the former dotting down and the latter slotting the two-pointer. Beantown tied it up quickly, but then league-leading point-scorer Lynelle Kugler put the visitors on top for good with her 18th try of the season.
But just when the Amazons were settling into their rhythm, Braaten and Markovich hit the deck, necessitating the early call for substitutes, both of whom were forwards.
“We had to get a little creative in the backfield,” Bruggemeyer said. “But the team did a super job of keeping their heads in the game. The forwards in the backline knew they were going to be a little out of sorts, but we kept it simple and they did the best they could. They played well, and I’m really proud of them.”
Despite the obstacles, Kayla Finn and Stacey Bridges scored tries for a 29-7 lead into half.
The second stanza was a different story. Beantown knew if they picked up the intensity that they could wear down the Zons, and they did just that. The home side outscored Twin Cities 19-7 in the second stanza, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the first-half deficit.
“Beantown did a great job of coming at us, and we played a lot of defense,” Bruggemeyer said of the second half. “Listening to their coaches on the sideline, they seemed frustrated that their forwards weren't doing what they hoped for in the first half. But they were more controlled in the second half, got more ball, and stuck to their gameplan more. We weren’t able to capitalize on our ball and couldn’t move the ball wide as much as we would’ve liked. But they did a good job of preventing that as well and really pounded us with their forwards.”
The challenge for Twin Cities will be getting their depth up to speed. With four major starters gone – last year’s championship MVP Amanda Kingzett, Anna Brown, Braaten and Markovich – some DII players will be called upon. The D2 side had won their Midwest quarterfinal two weekends ago but forfeited the berth due to numbers. Now some of those fringe players will fill some big shoes get up to speed during the final round of league play this weekend.
The personnel change also affects Twin Cities’ game strategy.
“Everyone thinks the Zons’ focus is forward play, but if you look at the score sheet, they’re all backs' tries,” Bruggemeyer said. “The forwards have become a little complacent knowing that our backs can strike so effectively and score. Their mentality has become: Secure the ball, get it to the backs, and the job’s done. Not anymore. We need to bring the forwards back into the game. Not that they didn’t have it before, but we have to reignite that killer instinct to go for the tryline.”
Both the Zons and Beantown advance to the WPL semifinals and represent the Blue Conference, while Glendale and Berkeley will take the Red Conference seeds. The Raptors defeated New York 43-18, and the All Blues won 17-7 over San Diego this weekend. Glendale and Berkeley are both 4-1 and will sort out seeds this weekend during their final league match against each other.