Another excellent game evolved during the Women’s DI College National Championship, with Palo Alto, Calif., serving as the host location. While Stanford handled Chico State relatively easily in their 45-12 win, California and UCLA battled out to a 24-20 decision that favored the Golden Bears.
“It was a tight game and we fought for possession the entire time,” Cal coach Ellen Owens said. “UCLA was very quick to the breakdown, were committed to the ruck and turned over the ball at the breakdown fairly often. I don’t feel like either team dominated in terms of possession.”
Cal found their edge in the way that the forwards and backs worked together. A season of playing 7s has made the forwards much more comfortable in the open field and joining the backs on attack.
“We’re able to keep continuity when we send our forwards running with the backline,” Owens said. “I’ve been happy all year to have scoring threats in both the forwards and backs.”
While UCLA played a balanced game, their scoring threats came out of the backs. They liked to spin the ball wide, and Cal’s speedy back three worked overtime to contain UCLA’s potent strikers. In the end, it was a penalty try that made all the difference. Cal had a scrum on UCLA’s five meter, and when the set piece collapsed, the referee determined it was UCL’s intention, and so the try was awarded.
Fullback Laci Patiga led point scorers with two tries, while No. 8 Jen Sever’s try and two conversions accounted for nine points. In addition to the point scorers, Owens was especially pleased with flyhalf Maricel Quirindongo-Crespo, who adapted well to UCLA’s quick defense and integrated different modes of attack. Inside center Lizette Del Real was also a player of note and instrumental in making the hard yards through the middle of the field.
Everyone exited the game and healthy, which in necessary for Cal’s game against Stanford tomorrow in the quarterfinals. Cal isn’t expected to win, but that doesn’t affect their pre-game mindset.
“We’re at the tournament to win as many games as possible and go as far as we can,” Owens said. “Our plan is to take the field against our next opponent – it’s no more or less than that. The team is ready to work hard, and at this point, it’s not about the ‘big game’ – this is nationals. It’s a different level. Stanford is a good team and we respect them.”
Cal and Stanford will contest their quarterfinal at 3 p.m. at Stanford.