The field was curious how American International College would measure up to the rest of the DII colleges during today’s college national championship, and teams got their answer after Vassar dismantled AIC 52-12 during the opening round.
AIC advanced to the national tournament after winning newly formed conference Rugby Northeast but today proved that a better qualification process is needed in order to ensure the best teams in the region are represented at nationals.
Vassar dominated every phase of the game – from scrumming against a massive pack, to absorbing relentless fringe punches, to fitness and pace. In the forwards, the front row trio of Nichelle Jackson, captain Alyssa Bell and Shanaye Williams were integral to the set piece’s success, while Meg Slattery ruled the lineouts in the air. The team tackling rate was also very impressive, even as the waning minutes of the game neared.
“We scrummaged really well against a big strong forward pack,” Vassar coach Tony Brown said. “AIC will wear you down for sure, but I was so proud of them for tackling those big, strong players.”
On attack, the scrumhalf/inside center combination of Margaret Kwateng and Taylor O’Mara was fun to watch. Both are powerful, evasive runners, and the two routinely set each other up and dazzle defenders with ball in hand. The two combined for six tries, while Taylor added another 12 points in conversions. Fullback Addie Provenzano and flanker Dallas Robinson also added five-pointers.
The one area in which Vassar lacking is its kicking game. Both sides under-utilized this aspect of the game, and neither had a solid boot to touch. Several times Vassar chose to run a penalty out of their 22 meter – and once from inside their 10 meter – which just added extra work to their plate.
AIC had a couple of bright spots, but they shone in individual performances. No. 8 Jess Davis had a couple of nice breaks and set up her side’s first try, but Vassar did well to bring the big loose forward down and contest her typical dominance in the lineout. AIC also had a very speedy and feisty fullback, who chased down a couple of long breakaways to just before the try line.
As Vassar built its massive lead, Norwich watched on from the sideline. The Northeast champion received a bye through the first round due to Rutgers’ forfeit and will be nice and fresh for tomorrow’s quarterfinal, set to kick off at 8 a.m. in Princeton, N.J.