It was another high-scoring weekend for the Women’s Premier League, and only one victor was the visiting side. During the first half of the D.C. vs. Glendale game, with the 19-12 scoreline favoring the Raptors, it appeared that the Furies were in the running for an upset. But the visitors cleaned up their penalties in the second half and ran off to a 61-19 victory.
“We have a long way to go before we hit our stride,” Glendale coach Steve Lynch said. “We’re doing some of the fundamental things well right now, but I think we can be a lot better than we are.”
Glendale went up 19-0 after 20 minutes, but then undisciplined ball placement allowed D.C. to disrupt the Raptors’ offense, and a series of penalties (four times as many as D.C.) put the ball back in the Furies’ hands.
“We had a couple of let-downs where we were deep in their territory, and then back-to-back penalties on two consecutive possessions turned into tries for D.C.,” Lynch explained. “We went from being up 19-0, with the game looking like it was in hand, to giving up 80-meter changes in territory and tries to D.C.”
But it wasn’t just Glendale’s mistakes that kept D.C. in the game. The Furies are better than they have been since the WPL began and a quick-striking back line highlights the changes that have evolved this season.
“We knew they were confident after their win against Beantown and that we’d have to weather a storm early on because of the momentum they had built,” Lynch said. “We’ve done well to limit teams’ scoring in the first half, but their kick-and-chase game, plus our penalties – we had to regroup.”
With seven points between the teams, Glendale captains Hannah Stolba and Sarah Chobot grounded their teammates and told them to rely on the game plan that was previously put forth.
“We’ve been experimenting with some patterns of play, just to see what we could do,” Lynch said. “We have a certain pattern for teams that have strength in their backs, like D.C., so [after D.C. scored,] our captains said, ‘We going to run the pattern as best we can.’”
D.C. restarted play, and from the first set piece after the kickoff, the team needed just three phases to score their fourth try.
“That was the turning point,” Lynch said. “That rebuilt momentum and confidence.”
By day’s end, nine different players – five forwards, four backs – scored tries. Once a comfortable lead was established, Lynch started working the bench.
“Hallie Koeppen came on at outside center. She's a hard runner, has good hands, and is a ferocious tackler,” Lynch said. “Nichole Wanamaker subbed in at wing at half. She’s exciting. She comes from Middle Tennessee State University and actually scored 30 seconds after she took the pitch – right off the kickoff. She went from never playing in the WPL to scoring immediately – which I told her I expect every time now. Getting that youth on the pitch and building depth with serious game time, that’s really going to help us at playoffs.”
Glendale’s now 4-0, with only Beantown and New York left in league play, but it’s safe to say that the Raptors are heading to the top tier of the WPL playoffs. They’ll be joined by either D.C. or Beantown (New York is 0-4) from the Blue Conference, and deciding number two will be an interesting race.
“Each bring something different,” Lynch evaluated the two sides. “The first time we saw D.C., they were still finding themselves a little bit, but they played much better against us this time. They’re developing but they could be difficult at playoffs. We probably match up better with D.C., because our strength is in our forwards, and theirs is in their backs. If we can control the tempo with our forwards in match-ups like that, then we have the advantage. Beantown matches us better in the forwards, so we don’t have the same, clear advantage.”
Beantown gave Glendale their best game of the season thus far, but that was week one. The rematch will occur at the end of October.