In a rematch of the Northeast final two weekends ago, Norwich and Stonehill College faced off in the Northeast Women's DI College Championship. And like the first match, the Cadets pulled off the 17-14 win in one of the tightest matches that either team has ever played.
"It was definitely the match I was expecting," Stonehill coach Derek Jenesky said. "They're a little bigger than us, from top to bottom, but skill wise we're about the same. We knew we could play with them; we just couldn't let them dictate the tempo, like we did in the second half of the NERFU finals. It was a great game with a very disappointing end for us."
The game started well for Stonehill, getting up early with a penalty from All-American flyhalf Laura Fischer. Norwich then suffered two game-ending injuries, one of which included captain Anita Moreno. What could have been a breaking point for Norwich turned into motivation to play for their teammates.
Back-to-back tries from Norwich scrumhalf Marlene Dwyer and wing Katie Gingras put the team up 10-3.
"We played with much more poise in this game," Jenesky said in comparison with the NERFU final. "When things went wrong, we sucked it up and came back at them. We played much more like a team."
Stonehill played patiently and Norwich committed a string of penalties that allowed Fischer to add two three-pointers to her team's tally. Stonehill went into the half down only 10-9.
The back-and-forth continued in the second stanza, and 20 minutes in, Norwich logged its third try of the day, with flanker Hannah Bushey dotting down and Emily Baugus hitting the conversion, 17-9.
Ten minutes later, Stonehill rallied back with an unconverted try (17-14).
“This was the most exciting game of rugby I’ve ever been associated with,” said Norwich coach Austin Hall. “The back and forth battle, the amazing fans on both sides of the field, the level of play, the willingness of each of our players to give it everything they had… We refused to give in and we earned every inch today."
"It's a huge consolation," Jenesky said of the close loss. "Now we're going to nationals knowing that maybe we can beat this team. We need to stay fit over break and work really hard to stay close. It's disappointing that we loss, but we gleaned a lot of positives."