Washington State has ensured its return trip to Palo Alto, Calif., in three weeks for the Women’s DII College National Championship. The former DII champion defeated Wyoming 34-7 during today’s quarterfinals, and will take on Norwich in the final four. The Cadets defeated Vassar 36-0 in their quarterfinal at Princeton, N.J. (read more).
Washington State advanced to the quarterfinals after a huge 102-0 win over SoCal champ California State University – Northridge yesterday. On the upside, WSU coach Leah Hammond was able to sub out many of her top 15 players early – inside center/fullback Megan Bonny came off after 30 minutes. On the downside didn’t have a chance to be challenged on defense, unlike Wyoming, which defeated Humboldt on a game-ending try yesterday.
Wyoming was in the right state of mind as they took the pitch today, and as a result, the West championship dominated the first quarter of play. WSU flyhalf Alexis Bonny (who had two tries against CSUN yesterday) assuaged some anxiety with a try in the 13th minute, but it wasn’t until her sister Megan scored 10 minutes later that the team started to settle into their game.
“Wyoming came out really physically and stayed in our 22 for most of the first 20 minutes,” Hammond said. “The girls were a little nervous in this high stakes game. Our defense was there, but we were having issues with handling and missed opportunities. We had a lot of defensive scrums and lineouts.”
But after building a 10-point lead, WSU settled into its game plan and let their strengths take center stage.
“We were able to be beat them on edges,” Hammond explained. “Wyoming was physical and strong, but we had speed and supported our outside lanes well. We watched Wyoming yesterday and knew they were coming into this game with a good kick-and-chase game, but we counterattacked well, especially on the weak side.”
By the halftime whistle, Washington State had a 27-0 lead thanks to additional tries from inside center Shelby Mastroianni, flanker Trelby Perez and Alexis Bonny’s second. Anne Peterson added a conversion.
Once Peterson converted Alexis Bonny’s third try (Bonny ran in five tries over the weekend), Hammond started slotting in the subs. Wyoming prevented the shutout in the 80th minute, when scrumhalf Megan Degenfelder dotted down and converted her own try.
“Alex Bonny had a great weekend, but had an exceptional game today in particular,” Hammond said. “She’s looking more like she did before her injury, both on defense and offense. Lock Dakota Breish played well today, too. She put a lot of pressure on the defense with ball in hand; she’s a real go-getter.”
Despite the slow start, Hammond was happy how WSU responded to Wyoming’s physicality.
“We’ve been hitting our stride of late, although there’s always room for improvement,” Hammond said of peaking at nationals. “We’ll come out stronger for the semifinals.”
And Washington State will have to come out stronger if they want to contend Norwich, which looked in prime shape today against Vassar.
“We’re going to focus our attention on the breakdown and retaining possession,” Hammond said of the weeks’ practices to come. “We know Norwich will be physical, and they’ll be a huge challenge.”
The other semifinal will be contested between Shippensburg, which defeated ERPU rival Temple 21-5, and Winona State, which defeated Pittsburgh 39-12 yesterday.