Penn State's Alyssa Boff ran in her team's first try against UNI.
Buffalo, NY - For the eighth year in a row, Penn State and Stanford are playing each other in the women's DI national championship - just not in the final. The two teams were placed into Pool A and have advanced to the quarterfinals after opening-round wins this afternoon.
Penn State started its national campaign with a 46-12 win over Northern Iowa, the Midwest's second seed. PSU coach Pete Steinberg mixed his veteran leadership in with his young talent, and the Nittany Lions ran out to a 17-0 lead after 15 minutes on tries from Alyssa Boff, Jackie Cairns and Amanda Mesa. Sadie Anderson slotted the conversion.
"We had a good kick-and-chase game in the first half and were able to pin Northern Iowa in its end," Steinberg said. "UNI had their chances, but we were able to shut them down. We struggled on defense - especially in the backs - but we were able to fix that as the game went on."
Anderson ran in a try to make it 24-0 before UNI got on the board with a converted try. The half ended when prop Katie Sullivan dotted down a pushover try, 29-7. The senior front row stood out on the day, and has been a great addition to the talent-rich player pool.
"Katie learned rugby as a junior in Ireland, then came back and developed into a great player," Steinberg commended. "At the end of the game, there's Katie springing down the field with our backs for some nice kick and chases."
Sophomore flanker Nadia Garnett also stood out for Steinberg. "She looks a little undersized - and she is," Steinberg said, "but she's such a physical player. She played good defense and gave us good go-forward ball on offense."
Garnett accounted for the first try of the second half, and UNI answered with its final points of the day (34-12). PSU then started subbing in its reserves and didn't lose a step. Lisa Henneman, Kyle Armstrong, Deven Owsiany and Brie Barto were among the fresh legs that took the field. Subs Kelsey Corbett and Owsiany added five-pointers apiece before the final whistle blew.
"We have up to 27 A side candidates and have the luxury of being able to rest players," Steinberg said, "but we made no assumptions that we were going to win today, and made selections accordingly."
Penn State was the heavy favorite heading into its game today, but tomorrow will be a much more difficult challenge, as the Nittany Lions prepare for Stanford, which won its Round of 16 game 40-15 over Dartmouth.
"We really enjoy playing Stanford," Steinberg said. "They're a great team, great brand of rugby, and very similar to us. They're fast, clean, hard - it's like playing ourselves. They have phenomenal, top-notch players, and it's going to be a great game. We're excited to play them, especially since today was cold and windy, and tomorrow's supposed to be sunny."
The winner of tomorrow's quarterfinal will go on to play the victor of Pool D's quarterfinal between UVA and Brown. Read about Stanford's game here.